Volume 5, Issue 1 - Spring 2012
Unwelcomed Pests Often Hitch a Ride
EFETAC and Canadian Researchers Investigate the Firewood Connection
by Perdita Spriggs, EFETAC
Firewood has ignited national debate, especially in campgrounds, largely because it carries unwanted forest pests across state borders and potentially even between the United States and Canada. Many of these non-native pests are well-known—hemlock woolly adelgid, emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle—and have caused significant ecological and economic damage, including the deaths of millions of trees in the United States. Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center (EFETAC) research ecologist Frank Koch and Canadian Forest Service research scientist Denys Yemshanov are determined to tap into the mysteries surrounding alien forest pest invasions, such as those facilitated by firewood transport, and help land managers prepare for and respond to the spread of these unwelcomed guests.
The researchers’ joint interest in invasive pests dates back to 2008, when their early models simulated pest invasions from entry locations through time, incorporating critical data related to insects’ host, population growth, and movement. Now, Koch and Yemshanov’s collaborative work, focused on assessing and mapping pest invasion risk, provides a suite of cutting-edge modeling tools and data products. Their novel research helps improve understanding and forecasting of risks and impacts particular to known, and emerging, forest invasive alien species.
EFETAC ecologist Frank Koch (top) and Canadian Forest Service scientist Denys Yemshanov (bottom) are investigating the connection between alien forest pest invasions and firewood.
“Research to develop appropriate risk assessment, prevention, and mitigation strategies has become increasingly complex,” says Koch, who with Yemshanov has examined data from more than 7.2 million federal outdoor reservations over a five-year period, involving 2,500 campgrounds across the country managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Park Service. “Strategies must address multiple pests and incorporate environmental and economic factors over very large regions in North America, such as climate, land use and other human and non-human-related activities.” Koch notes that some national parks, like Shenandoah in Virginia, have instituted an Outside Firewood Ban to slow the spread, in this case, of the emerald ash borer. The ban requires that visitors not bring any firewood into the park but gather or purchase wood onsite.
Unique to Koch and Yemshanov’s risk assessments is the ability to incorporate uncertainty, factoring in critical information known and believed to be known about the invading species. Beyond their recent focus on the firewood issue, they are also investigating human-assisted introductions and spread in general, highlighting how activities such as trade, economic development, transportation, and recreation play a role in invasive pests establishing and expanding their populations.
Koch and Yemshanov’s research is already helping land managers and natural resource decision-makers determine resource allocation and prioritization. They emphasize, “Linking the Canadian and US data helps to quantify cross-border movement of invasive species,” which enables better coordinated and more effective pest surveillance, management, and regulatory strategies.
Cooperating Scientists Recognized for Communication Products
Two North Carolina State University EFETAC cooperating scientists were honored in 2011 and 2012 for communicating Forest Service science. Kevin Potter received the Belle Baruch Foundation Award for best poster at the 31st Southern Forest Tree Improvement Conference. Barbara Conkling received a Forest Service Research and Development Quantitative Sciences Staff Director’s Award for Forest Inventory and Analysis Excellence.
Conkling and Potter also received National Program Manager's Awards at the 2012 Forest Health Monitoring (FHM) April Workgroup Meeting in Tucson, Arizona. They were recognized for their outstanding efforts co-editing the annual Forest Health Monitoring National Technical Reports over the last eleven years. These reports provide the latest results from FHM detection monitoring of forest health indicators and highlight recently completed evaluation monitoring projects of some of the most significant forest health problems in the country.
Above: EFETAC North Carolina State University cooperating scientists Barbara Conkling and Kevin Potter.