Invasive forest pests cause 56 billion yuan (US$7 billion) of economic losses to China each year, a Chinese forestry official has said.
In recent years forest pests have been gnawing more and more trees in China, damaging 140 million mu (9.3 million hectares) of forest, said Wei Diansheng, director of the Tree Planting and Forestation Department with the State Forestry Administration (SFA).
Each year, forest pests cause 88 billion yuan (US$11 billion) of economic losses to China. 63 percent of the damage is caused by foreign species, he told a forum held in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on Wednesday.
"China suffers more than any other country from forest pests. It faces a huge challenge in keeping foreign pests out," he said.
In 1980, China reported only 10 invasive species of foreign origin. The figure has now risen to 26. They have been detected in more than 4,000 counties in the country's 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and have affected more than 42 million mu (2.8 million hectares) of forest, according to SFA statistics.
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 make China especially vulnerable to the establishment of alien invasive species, experts have said.
China invested 380 million yuan (US$47.5 million) last year fighting alien forest pests and the figure is expected to reach 400 million yuan (US$50 million) this year, Wei said.
Beijing has been cooperating since April with neighboring Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province in an initiative to wipe out destructive forest pests, including the American white moth.
Forestry authorities said they would hire planes to fly more than 1,000 sorties to spray pesticide over roadside green belts and key green projects covering an area of more than 667,000 hectares.
The project is expected to last until the end of September, the Beijing Forestry Bureau has said.
According to the bureau, six provinces and municipalities in northern China - Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Liaoning, Shandong and Shaanxi - are experiencing problems with the moth.
The invasive American White Moth, or Hyphantria cunea, a harmful forest migrant from North America which was first detected in northeastern Liaoning Province in 1979, is threatening plants and crops in six provinces and municipalities in China. Beijing and its neighbors have suffered most from the White Moth, according to the SFA.
(Xinhua News Agency August 18, 2006)