A small leaf-eating white moth is causing concern among Chinese central government officials over the eco-environmental safety of the capital Beijing in the spring.
The State Forestry Administration (SFA) announced on Wednesday that Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Liaoning Province, would jointly carry out an extermination drive to wipe out the American White Moth, or Hyphantria cunea, a harmful forest migrant from North America.
The moth is threatening plants and crops in six provinces and municipalities in China, involving 116 counties, among which, Beijing and its immediate neighbors are most at risk, according to the SFA's latest bulletin.
A total of 300,000 hectares of plants in the four places have been ravaged. In Beijing, 50,000 trees have fallen victim to the moth, said Wei Diansheng, head of the SFA's Tree Planting and Forestation Department.
The situation, however, remains worrying as the number of the counties and districts in Beijing attacked by the moth increased to nine from four in 2004, said Wei.
Beijing's "Green Olympics" might turn into a brown one if the pest is not effectively controlled, said Wu Jian, a chief engineer in Wei's department.
Anti-moth measures include the use of pesticide-spraying planes, insecticide lamps, an American white moth virus and the chouionia cunea, a tiny bee which is a natural enemy of the moth.
Posters and information booklets are also being distributed to increase public awareness.
First detected in northeastern Liaoning Province in 1979, the moth is highly reproductive. Each moth can lay between 2,000 to 3,000 eggs. A family of larva can eat the leaves of a healthy tree in just a few days, Wu said.
China is the world's third largest country and one of the richest in terms of biodiversity. A wide range of habitats and environmental conditions makes China especially vulnerable to the establishment of invasive species of foreign origin.
Statistics from the SFA show that more than 1.3 million hectares of forest are damaged by pests every year, resulting in more than 52.8 billion yuan (US$6.6 billion) in losses for China's agriculture and forestry industry.
(Xinhua News Agency March 30, 2006)