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Invasive species: an overview

The damage caused by invasive species imposes enormous costs on the forests of the Asia-Pacific region in terms of ecological destruction, economic losses and detrimental social effects. Overall losses associated with invasive species, in many countries, are estimated to account for around 1 percent of GDP, with the United States of America, for example, sustaining losses estimated at US$137 billion per year. Forest losses comprise a significant portion of this.

In August 2002, the 19th session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission convened in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The proceedings incorporated an In-session seminar on invasive species: regional cooperation in combating threats. Among the recommendations from the seminar was a recommendation supporting:

technical meetings, to increase awareness and understanding of the issues and threats associated with invasive species, develop appropriate measures for dealing with these threats, and identify additional information and research needs.

In response to this recommendation, the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission organized the Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Conference. The conference was hosted by the Province of Yunnan, and was organized as an initiative of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission in technical collaboration with the Asia-Pacific Association of Forest Research Institutions (APAFRI), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The conference was sponsored by the State Forestry Administration of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Natural Science Foundation of China and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. More than 130 participants from 20 countries attended the conference. The main objectives of the conference were to:

The conference provided opportunities to share experiences and knowledge relating to the threats of invasive species to forests and forest products - and to develop proposals for regional cooperation and action in addressing invasive species problems. Thirteen technical papers were presented, covering issues ranging from pest risk assessments and incursion pathways to the use of the International Plant Protection Convention to manage invasive species affecting forests. The conference also held interactive working group sessions to help prioritize issues for action, and a panel discussion and plenary session in which an action plan for implementation was developed.

Ms Sally Campbell, Biologist Team Leader, USDA Forest Service and Mr Wei Diansheng, Director-General, Department of Silviculture, State Forestry Administration of China provided keynote addresses.

Ms Campbell outlined a global perspective on forest invasive species and told participants that invasive species are an accelerating problem worldwide due to increased trade, travel, and transport of goods. She also described some of the scientific, political and ethical challenges associated with invasive species, which include scarce resources to fund management and control activities, and human health issues relating to pest incursions and eradication activities.

In a presentation outlining the invasive species situation in China, Mr Wei told the conference that China has more than 8 000 forest pests, with 100 causing substantial damage. More than 8 million hectares of forest are affected each year. Economic losses are estimated at 6 billion yuan (US$703 million) per annum.

Technical presentations explored specific aspects and challenges relating to invasive species, including sharing national experiences. Generic aspects of invasive species were covered in presentations dealing with:

Case specific presentations were made on:

The strong participatory elements of the conference divided the participants into three breakout groups. The breakout groups were asked to consider knowledge and information gaps in relation to forest invasive species. Each breakout group was tasked with identifying five key regional issues and asked to develop a complementary action plan to address these. Groups proceeded by brainstorming for key issues and rationalising these into common groups and highest priorities. Potential actions to address these issues were suggested.

The key issues identified included:

Conference outcomes

The concluding session of the conference encompassed a panel discussion chaired by Simmathiri Appanah on the topic "Where to now on invasive species in Asia and the Pacific?" Each of the five panelists made a brief presentation and the floor was then opened for discussion. Sun Jianghua made a brief presentation on initiating the Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Network. Allan Bullard outlined information needs for managing forest invasive species in the Asia-Pacific region. Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Regional Deputy Director, Wildlife Preservation, Ministry of Environment and Forests, India, spoke about the need for international guidelines for managing invasive forest species. Gary Man, Asia-Pacific Program Manager, USDA Forest Service, addressed ways in which international and regional organizations can facilitate forest invasive species activities in the Asia-Pacific region. Mike Cole summarized some thoughts on where the region might go from here on the subject of invasive species.

Delegates participated in a wide-ranging discussion particularly focused around the establishment of an Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Network and an associated Working Group, and how these might function.

Three key outcomes were agreed upon during the session:

1. An Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Network should be established under the umbrella of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission. It was proposed that the Chinese Academy of Sciences would assume the role of task manager for coordinating the network.

2. An Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Working Group should be established to develop a programme of collaborative activities.

3. Each APFC member country should nominate a focal point to serve as a point of contact for the Network and for collaborative forest invasive species activities.

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