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Research from Imperial College London developed new methods for quantifying risks in trade and natural pathways for insects and pathogens, provided risk managers with model decision tools to target responses, and demonstrated how understanding social attitudes can improve risk communication for greater public and industry acceptance.



Introduced pests and invasive species cause over $1 trillion in annual damage worldwide, are a significant barrier to trade, and are second to habitat loss as a cause of global environmental harm.

Analysis and effective communication of risks from invasive species to trade and the natural environment has been hampered for decades by the absence of scientifically credible and transparent risk analysis frameworks, limited area-wide management tools and by a lack of understanding of how risk can best be communicated to complex stakeholder groupings. Regulators and risk managers have relied on biosecurity risk analyses that are largely qualitative, subjective and focused on individual species.



Research by Imperial on pest risks, management and governance has included work on trade network analysis, market influences, indicators of control and surveillance performance, international standards and regulations, ecological drivers, bioterrorism and bio-crime risk, and stakeholder and public perception of pest risks.

The approach involves integration of quantitative (modelling) and qualitative (expert judgement) methods to estimate probability of invasive species entry and impacts of establishment on horticulture, agriculture and the wider environment.



Members of the research team have been involved in developing UK government biosecurity policy. For example as members of Defra’s Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Task Force they advised on how to safeguard the country’s trees, woods and forests from invasive pests and diseases.

In terms of international standards, the pathway-based modelling has been used to justify new standards and procedures for biosecurity and has been adopted by implementing agencies (EFSA) and by international standard setting bodies (IPPC, WTO).

Improved risk management has facilitated economic benefits in horticultural trade for producers in the global south. The team’s area-wide approach to fruit flies in India was used in a government scheme on mango fruit fly control. This has increased mango yields three-fold and moved $0.10/kg pulp sales to $1.00/kg fresh fruit sales.


More information

Institution: Imperial College London

Researcher: Professor John Mumford, Professor Clive Potter


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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Improving understanding of the risks of pests leads to better international management​. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>