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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.

Haight, Robert G.; Homans, Frances R.; Horie, Tetsuya; Mehta, Shefali V.; Smith, David J.; Venette, Robert C. 2011. Assessing the cost of an invasive forest pathogen: A case study with oak wilt. Environmental Management 47: 506-517.

Kovacs, Kent; Vaclavik, Tomas; Haight, Robert G.; Pang, Arwin; Cunniffe, Nik J.; Gilligan, Christopher A.; Meentemeyer, Ross K. 2011. Predicting the economic costs and property value losses attributed to sudden oak death damage in California (2010-2020). Journal of Environmental Management 92: 1292-1302.

Economic Impacts of Non-native Forest Pathogens: Oak Wilt and Sudden Oak Death

Oak wilt symptoms on northern red oak leaves. Photo Credit: D. W. French, University of Minnesota, Bugwood.orgResearch Issue

Two big killers of residential and city trees are the oak wilt pathogen in the eastern US and the sudden oak death (SOD) pathogen in the west.  Homeowners and municipalities will spend millions of dollars annually to treat, remove, and replant oak trees and lose millions of dollars in property value as these diseases spread.  Information is needed on the potential economic benefits, in terms of reduced expenditures and losses, of programs that slow the spread of forest diseases in urban areas.

Our Research

To estimate expenditures and losses from damage caused by these pathogens, we first predicted the spread of SOD in California and oak wilt in Anoka County, Minnesota over the decade 2010-2020.  Then, for each pathogen, we predicted annual expenditures for oak treatment, removal, and replanting and property value losses associated with tree mortality.  For SOD in California, we predicted annual expenditures of almost $1 million and annual property value losses of $13 million.  For oak wilt in a single county in Minnesota, we predicted annual expenditures of $2-6 million for removal of infected trees. Although our predictions of expenditures and losses are substantial, they are lower bounds on total economic loss because we do not fully account for reduced ecosystem services and increased hazards.

An effective strategy for limiting the spread of invasive forest pathogens such as oak wilt or SOD is to find and remove diseased trees before the infection spreads to nearby trees.  Detection is important because diseased trees are often difficult to identify and must be specifically identified before being removed.  We developed a spatial optimization model to help choose neighborhoods for tree inspection when the number of infected trees in each neighborhood is uncertain and the number of susceptible trees, the expected number of infected trees, the infection growth rate, and the cost of tree removal vary across sites.   With an objective of minimizing total costs, neighborhoods with the highest expected proportions of infected trees are assigned the highest priority for inspection and subsequent tree removal. 

Expected Outcomes

Our predictions of the economic impacts of oak wilt and sudden oak death spread in urban areas suggest significant economic benefits, in terms of reduced expenditures and losses, can be obtained from programs that slow the spread of these forest diseases.   One element of a slow-the-spread program is to rapidly find and remove diseased trees.   Our model for the detection and removal of infected trees provides practical guidance about the spatial allocation of monitoring resources when only a modest amount of information about the geographic distribution of infected trees is available.  Focusing monitoring efforts in neighborhoods with the highest expected proportion of infected trees will likely minimize the total costs of monitoring, removal, and future damage.   

Research Results

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.

Haight, Robert G.; Homans, Frances R.; Horie, Tetsuya; Mehta, Shefali V.; Smith, David J.; Venette, Robert C. 2011. Assessing the cost of an invasive forest pathogen: A case study with oak wilt. Environmental Management 47: 506-517.

Kovacs, Kent; Vaclavik, Tomas; Haight, Robert G.; Pang, Arwin; Cunniffe, Nik J.; Gilligan, Christopher A.; Meentemeyer, Ross K. 2011. Predicting the economic costs and property value losses attributed to sudden oak death damage in California (2010-2020). Journal of Environmental Management 92: 1292-1302.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

    • Robert G. Haight, Research Forester, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station

Research Partners

    • Frances R. Homans, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
    • Tetsuya Horie, Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan
    • Kent F. Kovacs, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 
    • Ross K. Meentemeyer, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
    • Tomás Václavík, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
    • Robert C. Venette, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, St. Paul, MN
Last Modified: April 11, 2013