Managing biosecurity risk. Prioritisation of pest animals: Lessons learnt from the Australian Weed Risk experience


Biosecurity in the 21st century involves protection of the economy, environment, community, and the heritage and cultures of all peoples from the negative impacts of pests, diseases and weeds, for example VIC DPI (2009), NSW Government (2013), AG (2014a). The management of biosecurity risk in the Australian context is impacted by a number of factors that increase the risk from pests, diseases and weeds, including: trade globalisation; population growth; climate variability; the continuing import of plant and animal materials; and importantly, competing priorities for resources (NSW Government 2013). Prioritisation of these risks is needed so that effective and appropriate management can occur.

Increasingly, the biosecurity approach traditionally applied to infectious diseases of livestock and crops has been extended to encompass other biological introductions (for example Meyerson and Reaser 2002, Heikkila 2011), including weeds and pest animals. Further, recent proposals detail that biosecurity risk be managed by both a ‘new’ and ‘contemporary biosecurity legislative and regulatory approach’ adopting a “strategic and integrated risk-management framework across all biosecurity activities” (VIC DPI 2009). Similar approaches are current in many other Australian jurisdictions, for example NSW Government (2013), and Qld Government (2014).

The development of a risk-management framework across all biosecurity activities is not without international precedence. The United Kingdom developed a generic non-native risk assessment scheme and applied it to terrestrial and aquatic plants, terrestrial invertebrates, vertebrates: fish, birds, mammals; and a range of pathogens and biocontrol agents (Baker et al. 2008, DEFRA 2014). This scheme was based on the European Union’s Pest Risk Assessment (EPPO 1997) which has been used to assess insects, mites, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, viruses and weeds (EPPO 2014). Belgium and Denmark have prioritisation tools that can be used for plants and animals, and Germany and Austria also share a risk assessment tool applicable to a wide range of taxonomic groups (Essl et al. 2011). More recently, Blackburn et al. (2014) reported a system for classifying the environmental impacts of all invasive species.

Cite as:

Steel, J. and Johnson, S.B. (2015) Managing biosecurity risk. Prioritisation of pest animals: Lessons learnt from the Australian Weed Risk experience. Plant Protection Quarterly. 30(2), 40-50.

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First published online: August 30, 2015