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Forest invasive species - what are they and how are they introduced?

Forest invasive species (FIS) are plants, animals and microorganisms that are non-native to a specific forest ecosystem. Their introduction imposes enormous costs in terms of ecological destruction, economic loss or detrimental social effects including hann to human health. Inadvertent introductions of FIS to non-native areas are primarily through international trade and tourism especially during import of goods and food items. Intentional introductions of invasive plants are mainly for forestry, fuel wood and ornamental purposes.

Why are invasive species a problem?

Over all losses associated with invasive species in many countries are estimated to account for about I percent of GDP. For countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the economic and ecological losses due to FIS are estimated to be over US$ 200 billion annually! FIS is now an issue that transcends national borders and has become a regional and global concern while remaining an important part of national bio-security for individual countries.

The Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Network (APFISN)

The APFISN has been established as a response to the immense costs and dangers posed by invasive species to the sustainable management of forests in the Asia-Pacific region. It is a cooperative alliance of 32 member countries of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC). The network operates under the umbrella of APFC which is a statutory body of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. The APFISN focuses on inter-country cooperation that helps to detect, prevent, monitor, eradicate and/or control forest invasive species in the Asia-Pacific region.

What does APFISN do?

  • Raises awareness ofFIS throughout the Asia-Pacific region
  • Exchanges and shares information on FIS among member countries
  • Facilitates access to technical expertise, research results and training and education opportunities
  • Strengthens capacities of member countries to conduct research, manage FIS and prevent new incursions
  • Develop strategies for regional cooperation and collaboration in combating threats posed by FIS

APFISN activities

A regional strategy for implementing the short- and long-term activities of the network has been developed and endorsed by the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission. Accordingly, the APFISN will coordinate its activities through an elected Executive Committee, the APFISN Coordinator and country nominated coordinators. National Coordinators have already been nominated by 25 countries.

Opportunities

Implementation of APFISN provides an ideal opportunity for the Asia-Pacific region to address the important issue of FIS on a regional basis. The component objectives of the network, once fully implemented, will provide early warning of potential invaders and aid in their rapid detection and identification through out the region. It will also result in sharing of biological information, risk assessments and monitoring and control techniques of FIS as well as facilitating access to technical expertise, research results, training and educational opportunities. Thus, the network will endeavor to encourage, drive and enhance coordination and cooperation on preventing the spread and establishment of FIS bringing together the members in a way few, if any, other issues could.

The priorities of APFISN are:

Awareness raising

The awareness strategy includes identification of target audiences, define the messages to be delivered to each target audience and develop and implement an overall network communication plan. This would include ,publication and distribution of brochures, information sheets and posters on FIS, the network newsletter and fact sheets on the network. Developing an APFISN website, production of DVD's on threats of FIS to specific regions/countries and publishing success stories of effective action against FIS are some of the other activities envisaged. Of these, several activities have been initiated, some accomplished and others are underway. Raising awareness particularly at the Governmental and political level of member countries is a key factor to ensure support for all network functions and activities.

Develop organizational structures to support the network

The objective is to develop an internal and national organizational structure to support and coordinate network activities and strengthen and facilitate communication. The network will continue functioning under the auspices of the APFC supported by the F AO Secretariat. An Executive Committee (consisting of 6 members) was elected to provide guidance and direction to network activities and a Coordinator to the network was also appointed to take care of day-to-day activities. National coordinators have been identified by 25 countries who will be responsible for coordinating network activities within countries and facilitate timely exchange of information. They will also provide a linkage between the network and other regional and global forest invasive initiatives.

Capacity building

The network supports specific capacity building opportunities that offer significant regional benefits. Country reports on status of FIS in each country and needs and gaps to combat and prevent incursions were received from 11 countries. Specific actions based on these reports are being planned. The network conducted three workshops for the benefit of the member countries during 2004-2006 which dealt with preventing invasion by Eucalyptus rust in the region, managing coconut beetle incursion and early warning systems for FIS. Workshops on 'Developing invasive species management plans', (South Korea, March 2007) and 'Pest risk assessment' (China, September 2007) are cutrently being planned. APFISN proposes to identify and support collaborative research programs between countries, promote staff exchanges to assist with technology and skill transfer, tap services of experts from other areas and organizations for specific assistance and pool resources through out the region for linking to specific initiatives.

Databases and information sharing

APFISN gives high priority to facilitating the exchange of information on FIS. Members are encouraged to exchange and share information, research results and control techniques and link their national data bases through the network. Attempts are currently being made to link other FIS websites and data bases to the APFISN website. A multinational team (including IT specialists) will be developed by the network to design overall structure of the network database identifying extant databases to link to. All country reports so far received will be linked to the network website for easy access and sharing of information.

Contact you national focal point for assistance in accessing the network databases, reports, website" and newsletter as well as to find out the latest APFISN news and activities. Contact Dr. TV Sajeev, APFISN Coordinator (tvsajeev@gmail.com) to receive electronic copies of 'INVASIVES' - the monthly newsletter of APFISN.