Testing Blight Resistance in American Chestnuts

The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) was a keystone tree species in the eastern U.S., once found in the forest overstory from Maine to Georgia. The loss of the “mighty giant” to chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica), a fungal disease accidentally imported from Asia in the early 1900s, reduced the once dominant chestnuts to remnant understory sprouts.…  More 

How Tree Diversity Affects Invasive Forest Pests

“Invasive insects and diseases pose both ecological and economic threats to our forest ecosystems,” says Qinfeng Guo, USDA Forest Service research ecologist. Guo is the lead author of a broad-scale study of U.S. forest data that examines the relationship between the number of native tree species and the number of nonnative forest pests. Across their…  More 

Study Supports Single Introduction of Laurel Wilt Pathogen in the U.S.

Laurel wilt has devastated plants in the Lauraceae family – redbay, sassafras, pondberry, avocado, and others – since it was first detected in the southeastern U.S. around 2002. The disease is caused by the pathogen Raffaelea lauricola and carried by the redbay ambrosia beetle – and by humans moving infested wood. There is no widespread,…  More 

For Nesting Least Terns, Water Levels Matter

Least terns (Sternula antillarum) are small water birds that nest along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and some of their tributaries, as well as coastal areas in the U.S. Monitoring the species began after the U.S. interior population of least terns was federally listed as an endangered species in 1985. “In the Missouri River basin, least…  More 

A Hemlock in the Town Square

This summer, I joined USDA Forest Service scientist Andy Whittier for a day of field work as a part of my internship with SRS Public Affairs and Science Communications. We traveled to Green Mountain, NC to check up on an experiment led by research entomologist Bud Mayfield on hemlock trees. Throughout the eastern U.S., the invasive…  More 

Trees in Protected Areas

Conservation goals range anywhere from aesthetics to survival. Among the most important of those is ensuring that an ecosystem is resilient to disturbances and provides as many different functions as possible. According to an assessment by a USDA Forest Service cooperating researcher, those qualities can be quantified using two metrics: rarity and evolutionary distinctiveness. Rarity…  More 

Family Forests Are the Ties That Bind the Landscape

Family forests have an enormous capacity to provide ecosystem services such as clean air and water, timber and nontimber forest products, wildlife habitat, and scenic beauty and recreation — benefits that stretch far beyond property lines. According to USDA Forest Service research, sustaining these services depends on not only the condition of individual family forests…  More 

The State of the Nation’s Forests

Forests are constantly changing with weather, disturbance, and conversion to other land uses, but how do we know if year-to-year changes are just a one-off or part of a larger shift? Annual summaries of forest health are key to our understanding, say the editors and authors that produced Forest Health Monitoring: National Status, Trends, and…  More 

Very Crafty Caterpillars

Butterflies are the charismatic megafauna of the insect world. Who doesn’t admire the stripes on an Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), the eye spots on the Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus), or the amazing journey of the Monarch (Danaus plexippus), flying from Canada to Mexico to return to a place only known to its great-grandparents? Their…  More 

How Cold Is Too Cold for Redbay Ambrosia Beetles?

Nonnative redbay ambrosia beetles and the fungus they carry have killed hundreds of millions of trees in the Southeast since first detected in 2002. Currently, only cold temperatures limit the beetles’ establishment and spread in the eastern United States. A study led by Mississippi State University involving U.S. Forest Service researchers determined the coldest temperatures…  More