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Forest Disturbance Processes

A Balanced Approach to Monitoring Reduces the Costs of Invasive Species Management

Gypsy moth trap used to detect new populations. Photo Credit: William A. Carothers, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.orgResearch Issue

Nationwide, state and federal agencies invest sizable budgets to look for and eradicate newly established pest populations of high concern, particularly non-native forest insects and diseases such as gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, or oak wilt. With limited budgets, it is imperative to save money while providing an adequate level of protection. Guidance is needed to help organizations prioritize where to look for new populations and how much to spend on monitoring while minimizing the damage caused by invasive species.

Our Research

Northern Research Station scientists and an international team of partners developed a novel modeling framework for determining cost-effective investments in monitoring and eradicating invasive species.  The model attempts to balance the intensity and cost of monitoring with the costs of eradicating newly detected populations.  In addition, the model recognizes that monitoring programs are usually applied in environments under continual invasion pressure where the number, size and location of established populations are unknown prior to detection.   The model helps design long-term monitoring programs for high-concern invasive species to minimize the total costs of preventing their long-term establishment and spread.  The research team used the model to develop and evaluate monitoring programs for gypsy moth in California. They found that allocating monitoring effort across counties in proportion to monitoring costs and gypsy moth establishment rates could save the state over $200,000 per year in monitoring and eradication expenditures.

Expected Outcomes

Greater monitoring effort requires a larger upfront investment while increasing the likelihood of detecting invasions earlier when they are less costly to control and cause less damage. Conversely, lower monitoring effort increases the resources available for eradication while increasing the chance that invasions are large and difficult to deal with when detected.  Balancing the intensity and cost of monitoring with the costs of eradicating newly detected populations will lead to cost-effective monitoring programs for invasive species. Our analysis of gypsy moth monitoring in California suggests that areas with higher establishment rates, lower sampling costs, and higher damage costs warrant greater monitoring effort.

Research Results

Berec, Ludek Kean, John M. Epanchin-Niell, Rebecca Liebhold, Andrew M.Haight, Robert G. 2015. Designing efficient surveys: spatial arrangement of sample points for detection of invasive species. Biological Invasions. 17(1): 445-459.

Fackler, Paul L. Haight, Robert G. 2014. Monitoring as a partially observable decision problem. Resource and Energy Economics. 37: 226-241.

Horie, Tetsuya Haight, Robert G.Homans, Frances R. Venette, Robert C. 2013. Optimal strategies for the surveillance and control of forest pathogens: A case study with oak wilt. Ecological Economics. 86:78-85.

Epanchin-Niell, Rebecca S.; Haight, Robert G.; Berec, Ludek; Kean, John M.; Liebhold, Andrew M. 2012. Optimal surveillance and eradication of invasive species in heterogeneous landscapes. Ecology Letters. 15: 803-812.

Haight, Robert G. Polasky, Stephen. 2010. Optimal control of an invasive species with imperfect information about the level of infestation. Resource and Energy Economics. 32: 519-533.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

    • Rebecca S. Epanchin-Niell, Resources for the Future, 1616 P Street NW, Washington D.C. 20036, USA
    • Robert G. Haight, Research Forester, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station
    • Ludek Berec, Institute of Entomology, Biology Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Branisovska 31, 37005 Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
    • John M. Kean, AgResearch Lincoln, Cnr Springs Road and Gerald Street, Private Bag 4749, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand, john.kean@agresearch.co.nz
    • Andrew M. Liebhold, Research Entomologist, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Morgantown, WV    
Last Modified: April 30, 2015