The opening session of the conference was chaired by Mr Wei Diansheng, Director-General, Department of Silviculture, State Forestry Administration. Mr Wei welcomed the participants and invited dignitaries and organizing agencies to make introductory remarks.
Mr Zhu Lieke, Deputy Administrator, State Forestry Administration, welcomed participants on behalf of the State Forestry Administration and outlined the central purpose of the conference. He noted that the Government of China attaches great importance to invasive species management, particularly given the serious problems that are arising in relation to invasive species in a number of areas of China. Around 7 billion hectares are affected by invasive species in China. He noted that the Asia-Pacific region has an excellent record of cooperation in a number of spheres and the conference would provide a great opportunity to enhance cooperation on invasive species.
Mr Kong Chui Zhu, Vice-Governor, Province of Yunnan, introduced the principal organizers and sponsors and welcomed the participants on behalf of the province of Yunnan. He outlined some of the key statistics relating to the geography, population and forestry sector in Yunnan. He also spoke about some of the key policies and programmes being implemented in China and Yunnan including the National Forest Conservation Programme and the logging bans in force in natural forests. He noted that invasive species constitute a major threat to Chinas forests and to forests throughout the world and, consequently, invasive species are a common responsibility among all nations. He noted that the conference provides an excellent opportunity for sharing information and for cooperation.
Mr Zhang Zuang Xin, President, Yunnan Branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, emphasized that invasive species are a problem common to all countries. He outlined the roles of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in relation to invasive species as well as describing some of the invasive species that constitute serious problems in China, including pine wood nematode and Crofton weed. He concluded by outlining a proposal for the establishment of an Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Network. He noted the important roles such a network could play in international cooperation.
Mr Patrick Durst, Senior Forestry Officer, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific welcomed participants on behalf of FAO. He noted that the current conference had its roots in the 19th session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia during 2002. He provided background to the history and functions of APFC. He noted that expanding trade has greatly increased the threat associated with invasive species, while some very high-profile pest invasions have captured the attention of the general public. He concluded by thanking collaborative partners and noting the strong collaborative approach in organizing the conference.
Mr Jerome Beatty, Deputy Director, USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Protection, noted that invasive species have a long history in the United States of America and have caused immense ecological and economic damage in many instances. The American chestnut and various species of western white pine have been decimated out by invasive diseases. The USDA classifies invasive species as one of the four predominant threats to US forests. He outlined the new USDA invasive species strategy and noted the strong collaborative links that have been developed with China. He hoped the conference would provide an opportunity for strengthening collaboration with other countries. He concluded that the enormous biological diversity of Yunnans forests would provide an object lesson for participants of the need for action to protect forests from invasive pests and diseases.
Daniel Baskaran, Executive Secretary, Asia-Pacific Association of Forest Research Institutions (APAFRI) provided an introduction to the structure, roles and history of APAFRI. He described the various key supporting agencies to APAFRI and particularly their overarching objective to foster the development of forestry research for sustainable forest management in the Asia-Pacific Region. He noted that the membership of APAFRI presently stands at 67 research institutions including 16 Forest Research Institutes.
Patrick B. Durst
Senior Forestry Officer, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Bangkok, Thailand
Its a great pleasure for me to be here this morning and offer a few remarks on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission. We are here in Kunming to discuss one of the most interesting and challenging aspects of forestry development today - that is forest invasive species. The topic is of enormous importance to all the countries of the Asia-Pacific, and Id like to highlight three important features:
in this region we have island countries - or countries otherwise separated from the Asian mainland - that in the past were somewhat protected by distance from potentially destructive pests and diseases. But distance alone is no longer a safe defence;
many countries in Asia and the Pacific are now actively engaged in major trading of forest products and other products that can act as vectors for forest invasive species. As a consequence, importing countries are increasingly susceptible to the threat of invasive species and exporters are more frequently affected by sanitary and phytosanitary arrangements put in place around the world; and
all countries in the region have, at one time or another, been detrimentally affected by the introduction - sometimes planned, sometimes inadvertent - of forest invasive species. Some of these influences go back to the earliest species introduced by traders, centuries ago - such as rats, goats, dogs and cats.
The issue of invasive species has been present for a long time in our region, but for the forestry sector it has become critically important in the past few years. Expanding trade has greatly increased the threat associated with invasive species. At the same time, some very high-profile pest invasions have captured the attention of the general public; such as the longhorn beetle in the United States of America, tussock moth in New Zealand, and the pine nematode in Japan. These cases point towards the need to explore opportunities for action at regional levels, as well as reacting nationally and in global fora.
This brings us to the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, which I want to introduce to you, because it is an organization some of you may not be familiar with. The Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (or APFC) is a statutory body of the Food and Agriculture Organization and FAO provides secretariat support for the Commission. But the Commissions actual membership is comprised of 28 countries within the Asia-Pacific region, and it is the member countries that shape the work of the Commission. To help develop its work programme, APFC convenes in general session every two years. The last general meeting was in August 2002, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. At that meeting, the Commission organized a special in-session seminar on forest invasive species, which helped raise awareness of the issues and threats, and established the foundation for increased regional cooperation.
Among the recommendations from that seminar, was a call to:
"...support activities, including technical meetings, to increase awareness and understanding of the issues and threats associated with invasive species."
Thanks to the initiative of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the State Forestry Administration of China and the USDA Forest Service, this conference is being convened as a direct follow-up to the recommendations of the Ulaanbaatar seminar.
We hope that as the conference progresses we will be able to explore several of the recommendations made at the Ulaanbaatar APFC meeting - particularly, recommendations to:
develop regional invasive species strategies;
develop a regional invasive species information network;
establish means for identifying and sharing information on potentially invasive species and experiences in dealing with such species; and
develop collaboration among various national and international organizations and programmes dealing with invasive species in Asia and the Pacific.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to conclude by thanking and congratulating our collaborative partners in organizing this conference. Its been a great pleasure to work alongside our friends in the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the State Forestry Administration. Both organizations have done a fabulous job to ensure the success of the conference - working closely with our local host - the Province of Yunnan, which has taken responsibility for the excellent local arrangements.
It has also been a pleasure to once again work with the Asia-Pacific Association of Forest Research Institutes (APAFRI) and the USDA Forest Service in organizing this conference. The USDA Forest Service, particularly, has been a strong and consistent supporter of APFC activities over the past several years.
For all the international participants - especially those who have not been to China before - Im sure that by the end of the week you will come to understand why China is so famous for its hospitality and also why this country is advancing so rapidly, including in the field of forestry. The commitment, drive and dedication of the Chinese people are truly remarkable.
Personally, Im very much looking forward to this conference. We have an impressive array of presenters and topics - and we have ample time to discuss the key issues relating to invasive species in the region. I hope you will find the conference productive, enjoyable and rewarding.
Jerome S. Beatty
Deputy Director, USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Protection
Good morning, Mr Zhu Lieke, Mr Kong Chui Zhu, Mr Zhang Zhuang Xin, Mr Patrick Durst, Mr Daniel Baskaran, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the opportunity to make a few, brief, opening remarks at the beginning of this important meeting.
Invasive species have caused problems in the forests of the United States of America since the USDA Forest Service was founded, almost 150 years ago. Their impacts have changed the very nature and biological makeup of the forests we see and use today. Introduced diseases have removed or severely reduced several keystone tree species. For example: American chestnut in our eastern forests was attacked by the chestnut blight fungus and many species of white pines in our western forests were decimated by white pine blister rust. Invasive species cause millions of dollars of resource loss and cost millions of dollars annually in our efforts to eradicate new infestations, control the spread of established invasives, and to restore damaged ecosystems. Many of the specific activities in this area are described more fully in the US country report.
As you are all aware, the rate of introduction of - and the damage caused by - invasive species is increasing each year. In response, the Chief of the USDA Forest Service has recently identified invasive species as one of the four great threats to Americas forest lands and directed Forest Health Protection to take the agency-lead in developing a national invasive species strategy. This strategy will build on ongoing activities and guide future management policy for the Forest Service.
We are indeed fortunate that China has offered to host this meeting. Not only because of their legendary hospitality, but, more directly, because of Chinas position as a major force in world trade and as a leader in forestry research and management. The future success of any collaborative efforts in managing invasive species will depend on the continued commitment of China and the State Forestry Administration to helping solve these serious issues. We in the USDA Forest Service look forward to continuing our existing collaborative efforts in managing invasive species as well as establishing new relationships with our partners at this meeting.
Finally, it is appropriate that we are meeting in the beautiful province of Yunnan, whose forests of are some of the most biologically diverse in the world. As development increases, this diversity is at risk from invasion by exotic species. Hopefully, actions decided upon at this meeting can help minimize that risk.
My fellow delegates and I are looking forward to an exciting, interesting, and productive meeting.