Locust Watch

Desert Locust Information Service (Rome)

The Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS) is the focal point for all locust and locust-related information that is necessary to operate an early warning system for Desert Locust plagues. DLIS produces monthly situation summaries and forecasts for each country, and sends warnings and alerts about potential invasions or other significant developments.

The SWARMS geographic information system in DLIS

DLIS uses a custom GIS called SWARMS (Schistocerca Warning and Management System) to manage the large volume of daily data and facilitate analysis and forecasting. SWARMS contains historical data from 1930 to the present and allows for the display of remote sensing imagery and the use of various models to estimate egg and hopper development rates, adult migration trajectories and seasonal forecasts of rainfall and temperature.

The map collection in DLIS

DLIS houses an extensive collection of maps of varying types and scales that covers some 50 countries or about 32 million sq. km (equivalent to 20% of the Earth's land surface). The maps are used to check location data received from the field.

The management of data in DLIS

A Locust Information Assistant is responsible for managing all of the data that arrives in DLIS each day. During emergencies, the volume of this data increases dramatically so it is important to have well established procedures and systems that can effectively and reliably store, query and display the data.

The management of data in DLIS

Every piece of information received in DLIS is registered for easy retrieval and for archival purposes. The primary and most important source of information are survey and control reports from affected countries. Each key country has a Locust Information Officer who is responsible for collating, analyzing and transmitting this data to DLIS by email. National Locust Information Officers in each country use a custom GIS called RAMSES that was developed by FAO.

The locust forecaster in DLIS

The Senior Locust Forecasting Officer in DLIS, Keith Cressman, has been analyzing locust, weather and ecological data from affected countries as well as satellite imagery for assessing the locust situation and forecasting the scale, time and location of breeding and migration for more than 30 years. The quality of the analysis and precision of the forecasts not only depend on the data but also on the experience and intuition.


Analyzing the locust situation in DLIS

Survey and control results, observations on environmental conditions and rainfall information are analyzed in conjunction with remote sensing imagery, weather data, and historical reports using the SWARMS GIS. The forecaster looks for changes in locust numbers, behaviour, maturity and their spatial distribution in relation to changes in environmental conditions. This information is compared to past events that may be analogous and takes into consideration rainfall and seasonal forecasts.

Information dissemination in DLIS

DLIS prepares and distributes a number of products that summarizes and forecasts the locust situation. Every month, DLIS produces a monthly bulletin and six-week forecast. During periods of increased locust activity, these are supplemented by updates and alerts. Specific warnings of significant rainfall, locust developments or invasion threat are sent directly by email to the relevant country with suggested action to take, when and where. All bulletins, updates and alerts are in English, French and Arabic. They are archived in the Archives section of Locust Watch where they can be downloaded.


Data archival in DLIS

All reports received in DLIS from affected countries are scanned every month and electronically archived. DLIS maintains complete archives that date back to the 1970s. These data are available to researchers and other interested parties. Earlier paper archives are housed in the UK that go back to the 1800s.

The reference library in DLIS

DLIS also maintains an indexed reference library containing locust and locust-related publications, theses, articles, meeting reports and audio-visual material. The library can be searched via a database.
DLIS outputs and services to FAO Member Countries

  • Global monitoring of weather, ecology and locust conditions 24 hors/day, 7 days/week
  • Updated assessment of current locust situation and forecast
  • Monthly FAO Desert Locust Bulletin with six-week forecast
  • Deser Locust warnings and alerts to affected countries and donors
  • Updated information via Locust Watch website, Facebook and Twitter
  • Development of new technologies and tools for affected countries
  • Provision of practical training to end/users
  • Publish Desert Locust guidelines and other technical material
  • Technical support to countries for new technologies
  • Technical field backstopping visits to locust-affected countries
  • Maintain global reports and data repository and Desert Locust reference library
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See also
eLocust3: updated field data entry & transmission

eLocust3 is a handheld device used by national field officers during survey and control operations in countries affected by the Desert Locust

Google Earth Engine

Innovative Google technology and free new tools: Google Earth Pro, My Maps, Fusion Tables, and Google Earth Engine, already used by FAO Forestry and being extended for Desert Locust


A dynamic map that shows where vegetation is present in the desert and how long it has been green to better monitor Desert Locusts habitats

Early Warning

The basic components that are required for any early warning system to be effective and reliable

eLocust2: field data entry & transmission

Handheld device for locust officers to record survey and control results in the field and transmit them via satellite to their National Locust Centres