Climate change projections along with expanding invasive pest ranges pose a serious threat to forest
Assessing the climates impact on natural resources indicates warming temperatures will have impacts on our region’s forest resources. Beneficial longer growing seasons come with new invasive pest species which threaten the health of the forest.
U.S. Forest Service research indicates a “virtually certain” long term increase in annual temperature, over time, in the Lake State’s region. If there is adequate precipitation, this gradual warming should increase annual forest growth due to lengthening growing seasons.
However with this potential increased growth comes the threat of new or expanding populations of invasive pest species. Newly established or increasing ranges of invasive insect and disease species pose a serious threat to the health and vitality of our forest resources. For example many wildlife species are directly connected with these forests resources. Loss of plant habitat due to invasive pest activity can have a direct impact on associated dependent animal populations.
In response to this potential threat to our regions forest and wildlife resources Michigan State University Extension is initiating the Eyes on the Forest project. Designed to use citizen science to identify and monitor trees across the state, this program hopes to be able to identify early outbreaks of new invasive pests in Michigan.
Initially, the program is targeting three potential invasive pests which pose a threat to maple, hemlock and walnut tree species. Selected trees, identified as “sentinel trees”, will be visited by citizen volunteers two or three times annually to monitor growth and assess overall tree health. Volunteers will then report their observations via the internet on the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network’s (MISIN) web page.
It is hoped that through the efforts of these volunteers, there will be earlier detection of invasive pests. A more rapid control response should help aid in preventing the spread of these potentially devastating agents. If successful, the resulting healthier forests will provide not only recreational and timber resources but expanding habitat for wildlife as well.