A new mobile application, MyPestGuide® Trees, is now available to industry, government, and citizen scientists, empowering them to mitigate the impact of invasive pests and diseases on our forests.

The forest, wood and paper products sector is Australia’s sixth largest manufacturing industry. Forestry contributes $9.2 billion to the Australian economy and is worth 0.5% of the country’s GDP. Australia is also the largest exporter of woodchips by volume and the 8th largest exporter of logs, with our total exports being valued at $3.6 billion.

Australian trees and forests provide a diverse array of economic, cultural, environmental, and amenity benefits. While many potentially damaging pests and diseases exist overseas, Australia has robust biosecurity measures in place to mitigate these risks. Even so, exotic pests can and do occasionally reach our shores.

The MyPestGuide® Trees app is designed to promote, encourage, and make it easy for everyone to get involved in reporting new pest sightings in high-risk areas. Surveillance around high-risk areas such as air and sea ports, and cargo inspection areas as well as public spaces such as botanic gardens and tourist attractions maximises opportunities for the early detection of exotic pests.

Researchers from Plant Health Australia (PHA), the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), primary industry agencies from different states and territories, forest sector organisations, and university experts contributed to the development of the ‘Mobile applications to support stakeholder identification and reporting of exotic pests of trees’ project, which  developed the MyPestGuide® Trees app for Apple® and Android™. These are available for free download via the Apple App Store® or Google Play™ as well as a web-based version.

“The MyPestGuide Trees app is a pest identification field guide containing information on established and exotic forest pests, as well as a pest reporting tool,” said Paco Tovar, Forest Biosecurity Manager at the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA).

The app allows users to filter pests using various criteria to identify causal organisms and, if required, submit images of pests to their state or territory agriculture department for identification, assisting in the early detection of new and exotic pests, potentially allowing for timely eradication of new and potentially damaging incursions.

After agreeing on the scope and functionality of the application, the research team compiled a pest information database. The database includes details about various pests, their impacts to support identification, and more information on the suggested action required.

“The pests included for Australian and southeast Asian users of the app were decided in consultation with project partners, subject matter experts and stakeholders,” said Dr Lucy Tran-Nguyen, General Manager: Partnerships and Innovation at PHA.

Both established and exotic pests are included in the app to help users learn more about the common pests already established in their country, and to help better recognise unusual and potentially exotic pests for reporting via their mobile devices.

Following a period of testing and improvement, the app is now available for download and includes a section that describes the app’s functionality to ensure all users have access to basic guidelines on filters and search functions.

By gathering data using the MyPestGuide® Trees app, the project partners can actively contribute to building a comprehensive understanding of forest surveillance activities across Australia. This information will be invaluable in shaping effective biosecurity management strategies.

Furthermore, sharing access to the app with Australia’s south-east Asian neighbours can potentially enhance regional forest pest knowledge and improve the biosecurity of near neighbours.

“By pooling resources and knowledge, we can work towards more coordinated and efficient pest control efforts. A centralised reporting system will also enable better communication and collaboration between countries in addressing tree pest challenges,” said Dr Tran-Nguyen.

Everyone has a role to play in protecting Australia against harmful pests and diseases, so if you spot anything unusual or find something you are unsure about, call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.