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International Research Collaboration

October 2015

Non-native forest pests have been with us since colonists arrived in the New World loaded with dreams, grit and perhaps the continent’s first non-native invasive insects. The Northeast’s diverse forests and the industrialization and proliferation of cargo imports are two key factors that have resulted in the presence of invasive forest insects in the Northeast longer and in greater numbers than anywhere else in the nation.

Controlling or even stopping a non-native species demands research on an international scale. This month, we feature a scientist, research, a product and a partnership that highlight international research at the Northern Research Station.

Environmental Education Link

Many Forest Service education materials are available in both English and Spanish, including certain issues of the Natural Inquirer, some Woodsy Owl and Smokey Bear products, and Discover the Forest.

If you have questions about obtaining Spanish-language education materials, contact your regional Conservation Education coordinator.

Featured Scientist

Mary Ann Fajvan

Mary Ann Fajvan observes and learns from forests across North America. (Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Fajvan)From boreal forests in Canada south to temperate forests of the United States to the rainforests of Mexico, Mary Ann Fajvan is amazed at the similarity of issues forest managers face. For example, harvesting of second growth forest in the northeastern United States since in the 1970s targets the most valuable species, resulting in challenges for U.S. foresters in regeneration of some tree species. In Mexico, where high-value species have been virtually eliminated from community forests, foresters are just beginning to confront the same problems with regenerating species in a changed landscape.

“Working internationally lets you see that the problems we address in the United States are similar to the problems being addressed by land managers in countries all over the world,” Fajvan said.

As a member of the North American Forest Commission Silviculture Working Group since 2008 and as Chair of the working group for 6 years Fajvan has had ample opportunities to observe and learn from forests across the continent.

Established in 1958, the North American Forest Commission is one of six regional forestry commissions of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Commission provides a policy and technical forum for Canada, Mexico and the United States to discuss and address forest issues on a North American basis. Recent work included the development of silviculture guides for key species in Mexico, such as mahogany. Fajvan assisted in ensuring that the English translations of the guides were technically accurate thus, expanding the guides’ value to foresters worldwide.

Fajvan grew up in a New Jersey suburb, and she credits The Girl Scouts of America with introducing her to forests. Later, a high school earth science teacher inspired her interest in natural resource sciences. Today, she is a research forester with the Northern Research Station’s lab in Morgantown, W. Va., where she studies how invasive species affect forests and devises silvicultural treatments to mitigate the impacts.

The hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA), a tiny sap-sucking insect related to aphids, has figured prominently in Fajvan’s research in the U.S. Fajvan conducts silvicultural thinning experiments to test the effects of improved tree health on resilience to HWA.  In the course of her research, she has gained an appreciation for hemlock trees and the threat of HWA on their survival. “Hemlock is shade-tolerant, which allows it to occupy all levels of the forest,” she said. “There is a cathedral-like feeling to old growth hemlock forests.”

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Featured Product

“Effectiveness of the International Phytosanitary Standard ISPM No. 15 on Reducing Wood Borer Infestation Rates in Wood Packaging Material Entering the United States”

Standards for wood packaging material are succeeding in reducing stowaway insects. (USDA Forest Service photo)Score one for the trees, scientists, and international cooperation. A study published in 2014 by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis found that a recent international standard stipulating how wood packaging material used in international trade should be treated is significantly slowing the inadvertent export of stowaway invasive bark- and wood-boring insects.

The study’s lead author, Robert Haack, a research entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Lansing, Mich., and his colleagues found as much as a 52 percent drop in the infestation rate of wood packaging material associated with international imports entering the United States.

Wood packaging material has carried numerous non-native forest pest invaders to countries throughout the world. In the United States, invasive species that likely arrived in wood packaging material include the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer, which have killed millions of trees and altered urban landscapes.
The International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM 15), a set of standards specifying how wood packaging material used in international trade, such as pallets and crating, should be treated before export, was implemented in the United States in three phases between 2005 and 2006.  As of October 2013, more than 78 countries had implemented ISPM 15.

“The reduction in infestation rate would likely have been even higher if we had more years of data that predated U.S. implementation of these international standards,” Haack said. “Based on infestation data of wood packaging material entering New Zealand from the early 1990s, when infestation rates were higher, ISPM 15 has achieved closer to a 97 percent reduction in the number of insect stowaways.”

The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis is a research center of the University of California, Santa Barbara. The study was funded by The Nature Conservancy as part of their “Effects of Trade Policy on Management of Non-native Forest Pests and Pathogens” Working Group.

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Featured Research

Scientists go abroad in search of ways to save ash

oobius- imported natural enemy of emerald ash borer. (USDA Forest Service photo) When it arrived in Michigan more than 20 years ago, the emerald ash borer (EAB), an ash-feeding beetle native to Asia, entered a forest dominated by ash trees that had neither the resistance that develops when trees and insects evolve together nor its specific natural enemies. Today, EAB has been found in 25 states in the U.S. and 2 Canadian provinces. To better understand why EAB is less damaging to Asian ash trees and to identify potentially useful natural enemies for managing this destructive beetle in new regions, Northern Research Station scientists began international research that now includes working with scientists in both its native range and regions not yet invaded by EAB. 

Research Entomologist Leah Bauer has led the Station’s efforts to find biological control agents for the management of EAB in North American forests. She focused on two EAB parasitoid species discovered in the course of her work in China: Oobius agrili and Tetrastichus planipennisi.  The tiny, stingless wasps were first approved for release in Michigan in 2007, and their successful establishment resulted in the development of the EAB Biological Control Program in North America. These EAB natural enemies have now been released in most states and provinces with EAB-infested ash trees.  By 2014, O. agrili and T. planipennisi were confirmed to be attacking EAB at more than 50 percent of the sites where they were released.  Moreover, these two parasitoid species are making a dent in EAB populations, with 12-30 percent parasitism of EAB eggs or larvae at Michigan release sites.  As EAB continues to spread throughout North America, Bauer, USDA colleagues, and Chinese researchers continue exploring different regions of China for additional EAB biocontrol agents.

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Twenty-eight different species of ash have been tested for EAB resistance by taping eggs directly to the trees.  While Bauer focuses on finding insect natural enemies of EAB, Research Biologist Jennifer Koch is working with colleagues in the United Kingdom to help ash trees cope with two significant threats: EAB and a fungal disease known as ash dieback disease. First observed in Poland over 20 years ago, ash dieback disease has now reached 21 European nations.  Although EAB has not yet spread throughout Europe, it appears to be just a matter of time as it is currently making its way across Russia.  Ash dieback disease has not yet been found in the United States, but research has shown that at least some of our native ash species, already under attack by EAB, are also susceptible to the disease. 

As part of an international team of researchers, Koch and her colleagues have now tested 27 species of ash for resistance/susceptibility to EAB.  On the other side of the ocean, international collaborators are testing the same species for resistance/susceptibility to ash dieback disease. Genomic sequences of thousands of genes from each of the ash species will be generated and a novel approach will be used to identify which genes are involved in resistance by looking for evolutionary patterns of variation in genes that co-occur only in species with resistance to EAB and/or ash dieback disease.

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Featured Partnership

International Society of Arboriculture

Partnership with the International Society of Arboriculture promotes the art and science of caring for trees. Photo by Dave Winston.

There is both art and science behind planting, caring for and maintaining trees, and the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is promoting the professional practice of arboriculture and fostering a greater worldwide awareness of the benefits of trees. In the United States, the USDA Forest Service is one of ISA’s partners in research as well as training for ISA members.

"The strong collaborative relationship between the International Society of Arboriculture and the USDA Forest Service's Northern Research Station goes back many decades,” said Sharon Lilly, ISA Director of Educational Goods and Services. “ISA prides itself on providing research-based information to arborists and urban foresters worldwide, and much of that research has been generated or reviewed by the scientists at the Northern Research Station." 

Kevin Smith, a research plant physiologist with the Northern Research Station’s lab in Durham, N.H., and a longtime ISA member, is currently serving on an ISA committee that is developing an exam for ISA qualification as a Board Certified Master Arborist, the top ISA credential.

“The partnership provides a dynamic opportunity to make a difference in the quality of tree care in cities and towns both in the United States and abroad,” Smith said. “The Forest Service contributes training and educational materials that serve the needs both of ISA membership and the people who live in cities and towns, while the Forest Service gains by having access to tree workers who are ‘on the ground,’ on the more urban side of the rural to urban continuum.”

The ISA is a Forest Service partner in developing i-Tree, a free on-line tool that foresters, city planners, educators and the general public are using to quantify the benefits and value of urban forests. The partnership with ISA helps with planning and dissemination of i-Tree tools as well as involving international scientists and practitioners. Working with ISA, the Forest Service and i-Tree partners and collaborators have developed international versions of i-Tree for Canada and Australia and are developing a version for the United Kingdom and Europe.

“Everyone gains in the i-Tree partnership,” said Dave Nowak, a research forester with the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and ISA member. “Through the ISA partnership we have gained extended outreach to an international audience to improve urban forest management, and guidance and expertise from this excellent international organization.” 

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