Global information system on the impact of major insects and diseases on natural and planted forests, trees outside forests and other wooded lands

Insects and pathogens are integral components of forest ecosystems and normally are present at a relatively low density, causing little damage, and having negligible impact on tree growth and vigour. However, sporadically, in time or space, some species may grow rapidly to damaging numbers, developing outbreaks which may persist for a variable length of time before subsiding. Such large populations may have adverse effects on many aspects of forests such as tree growth and survival, yield and quality of wood and non-wood products, wildlife habitat, recreation, aesthetics and cultural value. The impact of pests may result in the curtailment of plantation programmes, the abandonment of a given tree species or the necessity to clearcut large areas dominated by infested trees.

Globally there is limited quantifiable data about pest incidence and their effects on forests and forest products. Insect and disease outbreaks in developing countries are primarily surveyed and reported for plantations and planted trees only, and corresponding surveys of forest declines and diebacks in these countries are rare.

FAO, with the cooperation of experts from member countries, is compiling data for a global information system on the impact of insect pests and disease outbreaks on natural and planted forests, trees outside forests and other wooded lands. The information system is designed to facilitate documentation on forest health at the country level. The target audience includes national forest services, research and academic institutions, and technical officers dealing with forestry and pest management.

The global information system will:

  • help remedy the present lack of information and assist countries by providing a basis for improved planning and decision making in this respect;
  • increase awareness of the severe problems related to forest insect pests and diseases worldwide;
  • provide up-to-date baseline information to support risk assessment and the design and implementation of effective forest protection strategies.

Through further analysis of this information, coupled with input from countries in the form of thematic case studies, it should be possible to review changes in the geographical distribution of given pests and, based on past impacts it may also become possible to project and forecast potential future pest outbreaks.

To date, qualitative information on forest health issues has been collected for 64 countries, mostly developing and countries in transition. The information was collected initially through a search of FAO field project documents. Additional information was then obtained from technical responses to questionnaires (37 positive responses from 7 countries) and from country overviews. Quantitative information (extent of forest affected, documented effects, management measures etc.) has generally not been available and data was insufficient to include.
last updated:  Wednesday, June 26, 2013