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International standards significantly reducing insect stowaways in wood packaging material


Report says as much as a 52 percent reduction in infestation rate

A new international standard for wood packaging material used in international trade is significantly slowing the inadvertent export of stowaway invasive bark- and wood-boring insects, according to a study by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS).

Lead author Robert Haack, a research entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station in East Lansing, Mich., and his colleagues found as much as a 52 percent drop in the infestation rate of wood packaging material associated with international imports entering the United States.

"The reduction in infestation rate would likely have been even higher if we had more years of data that predated U.S. implementation of these international standards," Haack said. "For example, based on infestation data of wood packaging material entering New Zealand from the early 1990s, when infestation rates were higher, ISPM 15 has achieved closer to a 97 percent reduction in the number of insect stowaways."

The study, "Effectiveness of the International Phytosanitary Standard ISPM No. 15 on Reducing Wood Borer Infestation Rates in Wood Packaging Material Entering the United States," was published today in the journal PLOS ONE and is available at

The International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM 15) is a set of standards developed by the International Plant Protection Convention stipulating how wood packaging material used for international trade, such as pallets and crating, should be treated before export.

Wood packaging material has carried numerous non-native forest pest invaders to countries throughout the world. Several hundred non-native forest insect species have become established in the U.S., and recent arrivals such as the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer have killed millions of trees and altered urban landscapes in the Northeast and Midwest.

The United States implemented the new standard in three phases between 2005 and 2006; as of October 2013, more than 78 countries had implemented ISPM 15. To evaluate whether the new standards were effective, Haack and his colleagues used data from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to compare wood packaging infestation rates from 2 years prior to U.S. implementation of the new international standards and infestation rates in the first 4 years after the standards were implemented.

A lack of data prior to implementation of the new international standards often limits scientists' abilities to evaluate their effectiveness, according to Haack. The analysis demonstrated a need for well-planned sampling programs before and after implementation of major phytosanitary policies so that their effectiveness can be assessed, Haack said.

"Destructive invasive insects have changed forest landscapes in the United States and throughout the world," said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Lab. "Forest Service research is vital to informing national and international policies addressing those problems."


Located in Santa Barbara, Calif., NCEAS is a research center of the University of California, Santa Barbara. NCEAS supports cross-disciplinary research that uses existing data to address major fundamental issues in ecology and allied fields and encourages the application of science to management and policy. The study was funded by The Nature Conservancy as part of their "Effects of Trade Policy on Management of Non-native Forest Pests and Pathogens" Working Group. Co-authors included scientists with USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, New Zealand AgResearch and New Zealand Forest Research Institute, New England Forestry Foundation, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of Maryland, and Columbia University.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of our nation's forests, amounting to 850 million acres including 100 million acres of urban forests gracing the nation's cities, where 80 percent of Americans live. The mission of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station is to improve people's lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

USDA has established a "beetle buster hotline." Citizens can help by reporting sightings of an unusual beetle and any signs of infestation to a designated, toll free hotline (855) 252-6450.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

Jane Hodgins | Eurek Alert!

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