Biosecurity in forestry

The term "Biosecurity" as used by FAO encompasses all policy and regulatory frameworks to manage risks, including relevant environmental risks, which are associated with food and agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Increasingly used all over the world, the term describes a process and an objective, which is a key requirement for public welfare. A related term, 'biosafety', is used in the Cartegena Biosafety Protocol, where it specifically refers to the release and cross-boundary movement of living modified organisms (LMOs).

As part of an interdisciplinary effort to assist member countries in better defining and addressing biosecurity issues in food and agriculture, the FAO Forestry Department has engaged in a series of activities to review the concept of biosecurity in the forest sector, to promote collaboration with other sectors and to analyse the implications of growing biosecurity concerns at the national and international levels. A number of studies have recently been undertaken to define the main issues associated with biosecurity in forestry, with the financial support of the FAO-Netherlands Partnership Programme. A study commissioned by FAO indicates that biosecurity is of particular relevance to forests and trees in five main disciplines:

Review of outputs of the Biosecurity Programme in Forestry (2002-2003)

  • Forest protection and phytosanitary hazards. This discipline traditionally covers such issues as quarantine legislation and measures and the prevention and control of insect pests and diseases, and is covered at the international level by the International Plant Protection Convention. The FAO Forestry Department has extensive experience in this field which is addressed under a separate programme on forest health. Phytosanitary aspects of exchange of germplasm are covered in a series of FAO/IPGRI publications (see Safe movement of tree germplast).
  • Alien invasive species (AIS). Invasive species are a growing concern because of increase in trade and travel, and may affect the forest sector in two different ways:
    • Invasive plants or animals may pose a risk to a particular forest species, habitat or ecosystem. Several programmes, at the national and international levels, are investigating the issue. See for example the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the North American Forest Commission (NAFC).
    • By contrast, forest trees may also invade degraded habitats, agricultural or grazing lands, or even other forest types. While such invasions are generally considered to be positive in the case of indigenous trees (which are part of the natural dynamics of ecosystem restoration), the naturalization and controlled expansion of exotic trees and shrubs outside their introduction area often is considered to be negative. FAO has initiated a number of specialized studies (see Invasive forest trees).
    For more information please visit the FAO Forestry Department Web site on alien invasive species.
  • Introduction of foreign/improved germplasm in areas where native genotypes exist. Although this issue is less important in forestry than in other sectors such as agriculture or fisheries, increasing movement of reproductive material is likely to increase risks associated with the pollution of native, locally adapted genotypes. A few focused studies are already available, for example see a study from Australia on Genetic pollution from farm forestry using eucalypt species and hybrids.
  • Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have caused increased concern about environmental risks related to their use in the food and agriculture sectors (including forestry and fisheries). An FAO Focus Agricultural biotechnology: will it help? has recently been devoted to biotechnological tools and GMOs, including those relevant to the forest sector. Selected documents and references on biotechnology in forestry are available here. FAO closely follows the application of GM technologies in the forest sector, and has commissioned a global review of status and trends of GM trees.

  • Genetic pollution: Some examples of studied cases of genetic pollution can be found under Literature on forest tree genetic pollution.
last updated:  Thursday, January 29, 2009