International experts who authored the new phytosanitary guide for the United Nations gather in Rome, Italy
As growing global trade expands opportunities for forest products, new threats from foreign insects and fungi are literally emerging from the woodwork. Resourceful globetrotters, forest pests can stow away on almost any cargo, including wood products, containers, nursery plants, seeds or industrial equipment.
So how do we keep pests out? That’s the question that Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) research scientist Eric Allen is helping to answer. He’s one of a core group of 15 international experts who have helped produce the Guide to Implementation of Phytosanitary Standards in Forestry. The handbook, published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), details how to reduce the spread of pests in the forest trade.
An International First
Published earlier this year in six languages, the guide is an extensive effort compiled by an international group of experts, including five Canadians. Scientists, phytosanitary (plant health) experts and forest industry representatives contributed, with reviews by over 100 specialists from 46 countries.
“This book is a first in that it’s very accessible,” says Eric. “It provides clear, concise guidance, based on international plant health standards, to help keep forest pests from spreading around the globe.” For Canada, this means protecting our own forests from alien pests, and ensuring we are not sending them elsewhere.
Foresters use a variety of treatments to reduce pests in forest products, including fumigation, heat, chemicals, biological controls and even microwaving. The new guide defines forestry terminology, describes international phytosanitary methods and explains how those methods can keep pests from slipping through the cracks.
Eric Allen visiting a sawmill in Ontario to inspect phytosanitary practices
A Guide for Forest Workers
Written specifically for the forest industry, the guide helps to connect policy makers with the forest sector workers. “Forest sector workers are on the front lines of forest trade,” says Eric. “The guide offers simple, practical, plain-language suggestions on what they can do at every step of the forest product chain to reduce the transport of pests.”
It also benefits forest planners, managers and educators, especially those in developing countries. As well as being available online, the FAO is distributing hard copies to forestry schools, libraries, universities and national plant protection organizations as part of a global awareness campaign.
Putting Theory into Practice
Pacific Forestry Centre research scientist studies sudden oak death, an invasive plant disease
Eric can see the potential for the guide’s concepts being integrated into forestry school curriculum. He also suggests the possibility of using it as part of a professional phytosanitary accreditation for forest workers.
Ultimately, it will benefit Canadians. “In the future, Canadians will see the success of this project in healthier forests and parks and fewer restrictions on the trade of Canada’s forest products,” Eric says.
For more information, you can read the guide on the FAO website or see the related article “Can science influence trade policy to protect Canada’s forests?” published by NRCan’s Canadian Forestry Service (CFS).
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