FAO forest health project - Guatemala


Regional strategy for forest health and management in Central America (Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua)

Project code: TCP/RLA/2803 (A)
Project duration: September 2002 - August 2004
Implementing agencies: Forest Services of the Ministries of Agriculture (or equivalent) in the participating countries

In 2002, five countries in Central America were faced with the aftermath of a severe infestation of bark beetles, in particular the southern pine beetle, Dendroctonus frontalis, and Ips spp. These bark beetles contributed to the decline of pine forests (including pine plantations), mainly Pinus caribaea, Pinus oocarpa and Pinus patula, and increased the risk of secondary infestations and forest fire due to the excessive fuel load caused by the death of trees.

The infestation in the region was estimated to cover an area of 100 500 ha with a growing trend amounting to multimillion dollar losses in investments, wood volume and environmental services.

Forest reserve under quarantine due to infestation of bark beetles Dendroctonus spp., Belize (Photo: G. Allard)

Livelihoods were threatened and severe economic and environmental damage resulted. Small landowners and farmers were particularly affected, through a direct decrease in household income through loss of trees and also by reduced prices for logs due to a surplus of damaged trees and lack of a competitive market.

Countries in the region were fully alert to the extent of the problem and had taken some measures that may have helped reduce the overall damage caused by the insects and associated agents such as fires. However, due to the lack of resources and trained personnel these measures were of an ad hoc nature and were unlikely to prevent further serious outbreaks. A complicating factor was the discovery that the primary agent in Belize was possibly a new species of Dendroctonus since the bark beetles did not respond to lures specific for the southern pine beetle (see Midtgaard & Thunes, 2003).

Surveying pest damage, El Salvador (Photo: G. Allard)

To deal with the immediate problem and to find a long-term, coordinated solution to reduce or control the periodic incidence of bark beetle infestations, the governments of the participating countries requested FAO technical assistance.


The aim of this project, in the short term and as a matter of urgency, was to assist the affected countries of Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua to take immediate measures to mitigate the insect infestation and to salvage affected trees so as to prevent irretrievable losses, mostly economic.

Dead trees such as these in Guatemala are at a great risk for secondary infections and fire (Photo: G. Allard)

For long-term management of the forests, countries were encouraged to design and implement national and regional strategies for sustainable forest management of the pine forests as a means to help prevent and control future infestations by the bark beetle. A long-term benefit was the establishment of a permanent regional strategy for forest health, to monitor the health of national forests and also to tackle the problem of the bark beetle regionally.


The project was carried out in three phases.

Preparation and planning

  • selection of a regional coordinator;
  • nomination of national coordinators;
  • establishment of national committees and the steering committee;
  • selection and recruitment of the national and international consultants.

Surveying the damage from bark beetles (Dendroctonus spp.) and fire, Honduras (Photo: G. Allard)

Immediate response to the pest infestation

  • evaluation of the present extent and severity of the insect's damage in the participating countries;
  • development or improvement of national monitoring systems coupled with on-site training;
  • prioritization of important sites for possible immediate treatment;
  • formulation and implementation of an emergency plan to prevent further spread and to contain the pest situation, including a review of previous infestations and an assessment of the forest pest management techniques;
  • recommendations of immediate action needed to be taken for salvaging existing affected timber including an evaluation of the existing national or international markets for salvaged wood;
  • evaluation of the existing and commonly used forest management and silvicultural techniques and application of the most efficient ones to prevent further spread in priority forest areas;
  • evaluation of potential use of trap trees and aggregation pheromones and other appropriate control measures;
  • first meeting of the Steering Committee;
  • first technical meeting of national consultants;
  • first mission of the international consultant on forest pest management.

Medium- and long-term strategies for forest management

  • inception regional workshop to discuss and design national and regional strategies for the selection and application of forest management prescriptions for pine forests to reduce the incidence of the bark beetle attacks;
  • establishment of agreements with national and regional research institutions for the selection and establishment of priority pine stands for testing such forest management prescriptions and the evaluation of the treatments applied;
  • design and production of a training manual on best forest management practices that lead to a reduction of the incidence of attacks;
  • preparation of a manual on low impact harvesting techniques specifically for salvaging affected wood under present stand conditions;
  • design, implementation and monitoring of a training programme on technology transfer of best management techniques among all stakeholders, including national and regional training centres;
  • training course for the national trainers (Honduras, 1-6 September 2003);
  • five national training sessions - Belize (2-6 February 2004), El Salvador (17-22 November 2003), Guatemala (20-25 October 2003), Honduras (1-6 December 2003), Nicaragua (19-24 January 2004);
  • technical and economical evaluation of the bark beetle preventive and control methods applied in the region;
  • second meeting of the steering committee;
  • second technical meeting of national coordinators;
  • final regional workshop to disseminate and exchange information on project results and to finalize a regional strategy for forest pest management.

Several agencies have assisted with bark beetle management in the region including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service in Nicaragua. (Photo: G. Allard)

Related information

Country information

FAO Forestry Department country profile - Belize

FAO Forestry Department country profile - El Salvador

FAO Forestry Department country profile - Guatemala

FAO Forestry Department country profile - Honduras

FAO Forestry Department country profile - Nicaragua

Related FAO projects

Protection of spruce stands, Slovak Republic, FAO Project TCP/SLO/0065

Project documents

Report of international consultant to the project, Stephen Clarke

Other related documents

Billings, R.F., Clarke, S.R., Espino Mendoza, V., Cordón Cabrera, P., Meléndez Figueroa, B., Ramón Campos, J. & G. Baeza. 2004. Bark beetle outbreaks and fire: a devastating combination for Central America's pine forests. Unasylva, 217: 15-21.

Haack, R.A., Eckelmann, C.M. & Green, E. 2000. Southern Pine Beetle Outbreak in Belize. Newsletter of the Michigan Entomological Society, 45(3/4): 13-15.

Billings, R.F. & Schmidtke, P.J. Central America southern pine beetle/fire management assessment.

Midtgaard, F. & Thunes, K.H. 2002. Pine bark beetles in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Belize: description of the species and how to monitor and combat the beetle infestations. Isadaltø, Norway, Norwegian Forestry Group, Inter-American Development Bank.

FAO & Comision Centro Americana de Ambiente y Desarrollo. 2004. Estrategia regional para sanidad y manejo forestal en América Central, Proyecto FAO TCP/RLA/2803(A), San José, Costa Rica.

last updated:  Monday, October 16, 2017