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Global data on insects and diseases affecting forest ecosystems

In recent years, insect pest and disease outbreaks have escalated worldwide, causing extensive damage to forest ecosystems. Yet too little information has been collected on the extent and severity of outbreaks and on the environmental and economic damage they cause. Information from developing countries and countries with economies in transition is particularly weak.

FAO, with the cooperation of experts from member countries, is making an effort to monitor the impact of insect pests and disease outbreaks on forests through the collection of global statistics. This information will assist governments and forest managers in policy-making and forest management planning. Annual data on the area affected in a given country will also enable comparison of the percentages of national forest cover lost to pest and disease problems over a period of time.

So far, FAO has gathered information from 77 countries through field project reports (275 from 75 countries) and a pilot questionnaire sent to selected technical experts in 2002. However, the data are still quite incomplete. Quantitative data on the estimated area affected by insect pests and diseases are available for only 42 countries. Information on host and insect or disease is often lacking. Adequate annual time series are available for very few countries. For most countries only sporadic or single outbreaks are registered. Many countries have provided single cumulative figures regarding the area affected over many years.

To fill in the gaps, a new questionnaire has been designed and formatted to make it easier for country experts to provide more complete information. Information requested has been stratified in two levels. In the first level, countries will be requested to provide a simple estimation of the area affected, the insect or disease name and the type of trees affected. In the second level, countries will be asked to provide detailed information on each outbreak reported (exact location and timing, forest type and trees affected, pest causes and effects, economic and environmental impacts and control strategies applied). Countries will be asked to specify clearly the source of the data, the level of approximation and the methodology applied every year to calculate the area affected by insect pests and diseases.

It is hoped that the new questionnaire will provide additional in-depth information to supplement global statistics on the status and trends of forests and forestry to be published in FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment Update 2005 (FRA 2005), currently under way. The new questionnaire complies with the FRA 2005 principles of transparency and traceability, and the stratified format should facilitate the work of the respondent. Information obtained through the questionnaire will be supplemented by extensive literature searches. In addition, parallel databases on experts and institutions involved with forest health will be regularly updated.

For further information, please consult FAO’s forest health Web site (www.fao.org/forestry/pests) or send an e-mail to: Gillian.Allard@fao.org

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