Ecosystem Effects of Exotic Forest Pests

Over the last century, forests of the eastern U.S. have been plagued by a series of devastating introductions of exotic pests. Among the most well-known examples are: the chestnut blight, which effectively eliminated from the landscape the American chestnut, a former forest dominant; Dutch elm disease, which has nearly eliminated a major riparian and shade tree species; gypsy moth, which feeds preferentially on oaks and is now the major defoliator of eastern forests; and the beech bark disease, which is causing a serious decline in American beech, one of the dominants of the northern hardwood forest type.

In each case, a considerable body of scientific research exists on the life cycle of the pest and its mode of action on the tree, but less work has been done on the long-term effects of these pests on the community composition of the forests, and very little is known about the ecosystem-level implications of the pest invasions.

We have been studying two pests common in Northeastern forests-the gypsy moth and beech bark disease. In a 2006 paper in Bioscience (Lovett et al. 2006), we summarized knowledge of ecosystem effects of exotic forest pests and pathogens in eastern North America.

Related Projects

Effects of Beech Bark Disease on Catskill forests

This project is focused on the consequences of the invasion of the beech bark disease (BBD) in northern hardwood forests, which dominate the uplands of the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada.

Effects of Invasive Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on Northeastern Forests

Hemlock is a "foundation" tree species in eastern forests and its presence defines the properties of a unique ecosystem that is presently declining due to the introduction and spread of an invasive insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid.

Effects of Gypsy Moth on Nitrogen Cycling

The gypsy moth was introduced to North America from Europe in 1869 and has become a major defoliator of eastern hardwood forests.

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