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FAO, Belarus and Ukraine act jointly against pine dieback

Pine forests in Belarus and neighbouring Ukraine fall on hard times nowadays. Plant pests and natural disturbances such as unfavourable weather and environmental conditions hamper their life and survival. Starting today here in Gomel, Belarus, an FAO-organized expert meeting  is about to look closer at the problem and validate the primary causes of pine dieback, with a focus on early detection and pest management.

With this, an FAO intervention kicks off, on request of the governments of Belarus and Ukraine, with the ultimate aim of developing an emergency action plan for combating the dieback of pine forests.

“Both countries have potential for forestry development, so FAO was open to helping them overcome the more and more pressing limiting factors, which result mainly from global environmental processes,” said FAO forestry officer Norbert Winkler Ráthonyi.

Experts point at the extreme weather conditions of past years, particularly in 2017, with its protracted dry and hot periods. Another aspect is that there has been little attention paid to the appropriate thinning of forests, which is necessary to reduce competition between individual trees for light, nutrition and water. The consequence: reduced vitality of pine forests, which has made them susceptive to plant pests, such as the bark beetle.

For this event, independent and FAO experts from different parts of the world, along with governmental representatives, have come together to visit sites, review available information and identify appropriate pest management activities.
“Adequate and quality information about the current status and future trends of the pine forest ecosystem is the basis for tailored actions against the dieback,” said Shiroma Sathyapala, an FAO forest health and protection officer based in Rome.

To improve cooperation and the exchange of information, FAO has established a Forest Invasive Species Network for Europe and Central Asia. There, experts have pointed at the role of climate change in the intensified spreading of plant pests and diseases.

Not surprisingly, one of FAO’s main priority areas for this region is sustainable natural resource management under a changing climate. By the end of summer, emergency action plans for combating the dieback of pine forests should be in place in Belarus and Ukraine as a contribution to this ambitious regional goal.

25 April 2018, Minsk, Belarus

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