New FAO website helps foresters cope with invasive species
Comprehensive source of information on growing problem
20 February 2006, Rome - FAO has created a new online database and website about invasive species introduced from foreign ecosystems which can negatively impact forests as a tool to help foresters deal with this growing problem.
Invasive species are plants, animals or other organisms that move into an area where they didn't traditionally live and out-compete native varieties, often with negative consequences for local ecosystems. Traditionally, research on invasive species has focused mainly on insects, diseases and micro-organisms. But FAO's new Web site and database have expanded that scope to include plants, woody species and vertebrates as well.
“Comprehensive information on invasive species related to forestry did not exist before. This is the first time that a portal has been created that focuses on invasive species related to forestry,” said Gillian Allard, an FAO expert on forest protection and health. “We hope this Web site and database will help raise awareness among foresters on the need to address the problem from beginning to the end – from preventive measures to management.”
Invasive species have always been of concern but their threat has grown exponentially with recent increases in trade, travel and transport, according to FAO. Climate change, civil unrest, tourism or a country’s lack of effective forestry regulations also play a role.
Some introduced tree species used for planted forest development, in some locations, can become invasive if not well managed and cause serious environmental, social and economic damage. However, these risks need to be weighed up with the substantial benefits that planted forests provide. The invasive species database will be integrated with a planted forests database to assist investors and managers to make more informed decision on species selections and management choices in planted forest development.
A cause for alarm
A global assessment of the financial loss caused by invasive species does not exist, but according to survey in six countries reported in the scientific journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, the total cost of losses in agriculture and forestry was estimated at US$314 billion per year.
Invasive species generate substantial costs to the forest sector not only through lost revenues due to poor forest health, but also in expenses related to their control and in degraded conservation values and ecosystem services.
“Given the increasing threat posed by invasive species to forests, it is timely that we share information on the species with practitioners on the ground, so that they may detect early on the problems and protect their forests and surrounding ecosystems,” said Allard.
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