Xylella fastidiosa invasion of new countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa: ranking the potential exposure scenarios.
After the recent high-impact European outbreaks of Xylella fastidiosa (Xf), a xylem-limited plant pathogenic bacterium native to the Americas, this research aims to rank the risks of potential entry, establishment and spread of Xf in new countries across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. A novel risk-ranking technique is developed, based on combining entry risk drivers (imported plants, direct flights and ferry connections) with risk factors related to establishment and spread (presence of potential insect vectors, vulnerable economic crops, alternative hosts and climate suitability) of this pathogen. This reveals that western European countries have the highest risk for entry, but that the Mediterranean basin runs the highest risk for establishment and spread of Xf. Lebanon in particular has the highest level of risk for Xf dispersal within its suitable territory. Countries without current outbreaks combining high risks of Xf arrival and establishment are mainly in the Mediterranean basin: Turkey is at the highest level of risk, followed by Greece, Morocco and Tunisia, which are ranked at the high level. The ranking model also confirms the vulnerability, in terms of invasion by Xf, of southern European countries (Italy, Portugal and Spain) in which the pathogen has already been reported. High summer temperatures in these southern countries are likely to be the significant determinant for the overall invasion process, while northern European countries have a high level risk for the arrival of the pathogen, but relatively low summer temperatures may limit establishment and spread of major outbreaks. In general, our study provides a useful approach for mapping and comparing risks of invasive non-native species and emerging pathogens between countries, which could be useful for regional horizon scanning and phytosanitary and biosecurity management.