Project information

The International Plant Sentinel Network (IPSN)

Prevention is better than cure! The IPSN aims to protect British tree species from attack by invasive damaging pests and diseases. Working with botanic gardens and arboreta, this international network will provide critical information and forewarning that can protect our iconic tree species.


Charity information: Botanic Gardens Conservation International

Botanic Gardens Conservation International logo
  • Need


    A significant threat to our iconic British trees is the increasing incidence of imported pests and diseases that damage native plant species. In recent years the UK has seen outbreaks of Chalara dieback of ash, horse chestnut leaf miner, bleeding canker of horse chestnut, oak processionary moth, oak decline, larch tree disease and sweet chestnut blight, to name a few. These organisms have all had a catastrophic impact on our trees and have caused irrevocable changes to the British landscape.


    The IPSN supports surveying and monitoring of British tree species in botanic gardens and arboreta around the world. This offshore monitoring of our native plants, or so called ‘sentinel plants’, provides an early warning system to identify damaging organisms before they arrive in the UK. If we know these organisms are coming, we can prevent them arriving in the UK or better manage outbreaks if they do arrive. The network trains garden staff in the UK to improve identification and responses.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Aid in the identification and gathering of information on new and emerging plant pests and diseases


    » Training courses for botanic gardens and arboreta staff around the world for the monitoring of UK tree species - £500-£4,500 (size dependent)
    » Training materials and survey methodologies for various pests, diseases and host species in key countries of interest - £200-£500
    » Diagnostic support for the identification of ‘unknown’ damaging organisms or for confirmation of known damaging species - £1000-£3000

    Number of garden staff trained worldwide, resources developed, surveys carried out and diagnostic samples processed.

    Aim 2

    Provide training to UK botanic gardens and arboreta to improve disaster readiness and biosecurity


    » Training courses for botanic gardens and arboreta staff in the UK - £500-£4,500 (size dependent)
    » Training materials and survey methodologies for various pests, diseases and host species of important in key countries of interest - £200-£500

    Number of UK garden staff trained, resources developed and surveys carried out.

    Aim 3

    Raise awareness on the issue of tree health and biosecurity best practice and the role of the IPSN


    » Work with other sectors, including forestry, government, agriculture and horticulture
    » Sharing expertise and knowledge with the botanic garden network and conservation community
    » Forming new partnerships with botanic gardens and conservation organisations and generally increasing our public profile

    Number of institutes, gardens, individuals and countries participating in the network.

  • Impact


    We will prevent the introduction, and mitigate the impacts of, pests and diseases that pose a threat to British trees by providing key information about potential future and current threats. We will increase engagement and capacity in UK botanic gardens and arboreta to help early identification of risks, aiding eradication efforts. Key measures of success will include number of people trained, surveys run, resources developed and, ultimately, the number of pests identified.


    The IPSN relies upon ‘in kind’ contributions from botanic gardens and arboreta, research laboratories, individual researchers and other affiliated organisations. We minimise risks by creating a robust and viable network that provides important tools and resources to all these stakeholders. Our work also relies upon sharing information transnationally. Therefore, we work hard to ensure that the network has reciprocal benefits for all members, thus promoting the need for sharing such information.


    1.Regular updates on the IPSN website and social media detailing ongoing and prospective activities.
    2. Large donors will receive reports on our progress, including information on botanic gardens and arboreta that have received training and reports on the organisms we have detected

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £100,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £35,000 Project Coordination Staff time and coordination
      £15,000 Support Diagnostic support and guidance
      £25,000 Capacity building Developing reporting systems, databases, training materials, interpretation and other resources
      £25,000 Outreach Workshops, online training, attendance at conferences and meetings

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    UK Funders £50,000 Conditional
    European funders from the Euphresco Network £30,000 Conditional
  • Background


    The IPSN currently has 29 member gardens around the world as well as research institutes, government organisations and other affiliated organisations. The project has good representation throughout Europe, China, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, among others. We have run successful workshops in the UK, China and the U.S. (which included many participants from Mexico). Further to this, BGCI’s worldwide network comprises around 500 botanic gardens and conservation organisations in 96 countries


    The project will have a number of beneficiaries. It will aid:
    - Everybody; both in the UK and wider, by protecting iconic tree species
    - National, EU and International policy makers and scientists; by providing key scientific data which can be used to help protect the country against damaging pests
    - Botanic gardens and arboreta; to increase knowledge and skills in plant health, and protect their precious collections (through increased awareness and biosecurity measures and access to resources)

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    There is a lack of coordinated action to protect the world’s flora from plant pests and diseases. BGCI has a great track record of delivering successful conservation actions around the world to protect threatened plants. BGCI has an extensive network of over 500 botanic garden members in 96 countries who bring technical expertise in growing, conserving and managing trees. BGCI also hosts 2 unique databases (PlantSearch and GardenSearch) which are invaluable resources for the IPSN.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Suzanne Sharrock

    Director of Global Programmes (BGCI) – provides key links to the BGCI network and helps to build the network’s capacity

    Ellie Barham

    IPSN Coordinator (BGCI) - the project’s coordinator