Invading pathogens don't read maps!


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Plant and animal disease outbreaks have significant ecological and economic impacts. The spatial extent of control is often informed solely by administrative geography - for example, quarantine of an entire county or state once an invading disease is detected - with little regard for pathogen epidemiology. In this project we investigate whether control deployed according to administrative boundaries is likely to achieve cost efficient control. We present a stochastic model for the spread of a plant pathogen that couples spread in the natural environment and transmission via the nursery trade, and use it to illustrate that control deployed according to administrative boundaries is almost always sub-optimal. We use sudden oak death (caused by Phytophthora ramorum) in mixed forests in California as motivation for our study, since the decision as to whether or not to deploy plant trade quarantine is currently undertaken on a county-by-county basis for that system. However, our key conclusion is applicable more generally: basing management of any disease entirely upon administrative borders does not balance the cost of control with the possible economic and ecological costs of further spread in the optimal fashion.



A publication based on this work is available here. An article about this work is available here.

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