first three recommendations are directed toward the regulatory activities of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) because they are related to our understanding of the scientific basis of prediction. The other recommendations require action by USDA, APHIS, other federal and state agencies, and the scientific community. Recommendations 4-7 are related to the documentation and standardization that is needed to understand invasions better. Recommendations 8-10 focus on needed research, and recommendations 11 and 12 point to the organizational infrastructure and scientific expertise that are needed to make headway against the problem of predicting invasions.
In the Committee’s view, all of these recommendations carry a need for urgent implementation. The current basis for evaluating the potential risks by newly introduced nonindigenous species is not adequate to address the problem of biological invasions—a problem that is certain to continue growing in the coming decades.
Recommendation 1. The Port Information Network (PIN) database maintained by APHIS is a potentially valuable source of information for understanding the pathways by which potential invaders arrive at U.S. borders, but the utility and availability of the data could be substantially improved. Sampling methodology should be statistically designed and implemented consistently. Sampling protocols at ports and borders should be re-evaluated and revised as necessary to ensure that pest interception data are accurate and meaningful. Data collection should be expanded to include vascular plants (in addition to those on federal lists of noxious weeds and seeds). Increased efforts are also needed to detect and identify pathogens consistently. Improved technology to detect hitchhiking insects and plant pathogens arriving with cargo, baggage, and related commodities could improve the utility of the PIN database (as well as reduce opportunities for new, potentially invasive pests to immigrate). The value of the database would be increased by including additional variables, such as a record of inspections that result in the detection of zero pests, some measure of the abundance of detected pests, and interceptions of nonquarantined pests. The data should be monitored consistently and regularly to identify and correct problems in data entry or maintenance. The PIN database should be accessible for analysis by investigators in universities and other agencies in collaboration with APHIS personnel who are familiar with the database.
Recommendation 2. APHIS risk assessments combine a system of predicting an organism’s arrival and establishment with an estimation of the possible consequences. The assessments are based on scientific concepts but contain uncertain-