Forestry officials are losing the battle against the bark beetle, a tiny pest which is destroying vast swathes of Switzerland's forests.
A new report by the Federal Office for the Environment says the infestation is the most serious in the past 200 years, and is spreading especially fast because so many Swiss forests were damaged by hurricane "Lothar" in December 1999.
The report calls for a further SFr30 million to be made available to combat the infestation, in addition to the SFr510 million already committed to replenishing Switzerland's forests in the wake of the storm.
The bark beetle normally attacks weakened or dying trees, but when present in large numbers it also attacks healthy trees. Once a tree is infested with the beetle, it usually does not recover, and has to felled.
Thousands of trees already lost
In 2001 alone 1.36 million cubic metres of wood had to be felled because of damage by bark beetles.
The Environment Office estimates that the figure will reach at least two million cubic metres this year, and could be even higher, if urgent measures are not taken to tackle the beetle infestation.
The Office adds that the infestation is expected to peak in 2004, and that a further three million cubic metres of wood could be lost in 2003.
Planting of new young trees is already underway, but here too the office says funds are insufficient. The new report calls for an extra SFr10 million to be made available for replanting during the years 2004 and 2005.
Latest figures from the Swiss cantons show that the Lothar hurricane destroyed 13.8 million cubic metres of forest over an area of 46,000 hectares; a figure much higher than the first estimates which were produced immediately after the storm.
swissinfo with agencies
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