The importance of pests and their negative impacts on forests are often underestimated. Pest outbreaks can contribute either directly or indirectly to economic and environmental losses. Insects and diseases can have adverse effects on tree growth and survival, yield and quality of wood and non-wood products, wildlife habitat, recreation and scenic and cultural value. Yet they are integral components of forests. Invasive plant species can also cause damage through competition and prevention of regeneration of native tree species, posing new challenges especially to the in situ conservation of forest biological diversity. Pollution is another threat to forest health and vitality.
Insects and diseases influence the health of natural and planted forests, trees outside forests and other wooded lands. Globally, these ecosystems are under increasing threat, as the periods between sequential outbreaks are rapidly decreasing because of a range of factors including climate change and lack of proper forest and plantation management.
Movement of insects and diseases has been facilitated by increased long-range air travel and reduced travel time, increased international trade of agricultural and forest products, and the exchange of plant material. Introduced forest pests can be extremely destructive, as seen in recent years in both developed and developing countries.
Activities in the FAO forest protection and health programme aim to assist, advise and support countries and national institutes to safeguard the health and vitality of forests, forest ecosystems and trees outside forests, with special reference to insects, diseases and other harmful biotic and abiotic agents. FAO provides advice on preventive measures and Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and on recommended action to minimize risks of transboundary transfer. FAO offers assistance to countries not only in response to pest outbreaks and emergencies but also in establishing long-term prevention and forest protection strategies.
Information on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the introduction of new genotypes can be found on the Biosecurity in forestry Web site.
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