Act Now: Forest Protection in the 2018 Farm Bill

 

NOW is the time to advocate inclusion of important proposals in the 2018 Farm Bill. It is currently under consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. If we miss this round of Farm Bill legislation, there won’t be another opportunity until 2023. Urge your Senators and Representative to support creation of the two grant-based funds described below.

 

What’s the issue?

We know that about 500 species of non-native insects and pathogens that attack native trees and shrubs are established in the United States. The number in Canada is 180 – there is considerable overlap.

Protecting the trees and their ecosystem services requires development and deployment of a set of tools aimed at either reducing the pests’ virulence or strengthening the tree hosts’ resistance or tolerance. Such strategies include biological control targetting the insect or pathogen and breeding trees resistant to the pest. Developing and employing these tools require sustained effort over years.

Unfortunately, the programs now charged with responding to introduced forest pests are only a ragged patchwork of university, state, and federal efforts. They provide neither the appropriate range of expertise nor continuity.  (For a more thorough discussion of the resources needed to restore tree species badly depleted by non-native pests, read Chapter 6 of Fading Forests III, posted here.)

 

CISP-backed Amendments

In order to begin filling the gaps, the Center for Invasive Species has proposed forest-related legislation for the Farm Bill currently being considered by Congress.

We propose creation of two new funds, each to provide grants to support tree-protection and restoration projects. We find that the expertise and facilities needed to plant and maintain young trees in the forest differ enough from those needed to research and test biological approaches to pest management and tree improvement that each deserves its own support.

Our first proposal would create a grant program managed by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to provide long-term funding for research to restore tree species severely damaged by alien pests. The focus of the research would be on:

  • Biocontrol of pests threatening native tree species;
  • Exploration of genetic manipulation of the pests;
  • Enhancement of host- resistance mechanisms for individual tree species;
  • Development of other strategies for restoration; and
  • Development and dissemination of tools and information based on the research.

Entities eligible for funding under our proposal would include:

  • Agencies of the U.S. government;
  • State cooperative institutions;
  • A university or college with a college of agriculture or wildlife and fisheries; and
  • Non-profit entities recognized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Our second proposal would provide long-term funding to support research into and deployment of strategies for restoring pest-decimated tree species in the forest. The source of funds would be the McIntire-Stennis program. The eligible institutions would be similar: schools of forestry; land grant universities; state agricultural and forestry experimental stations; and non-profit non-governmental organizations. Projects would integrate the following components into a forest restoration strategy:

  • Collection and conservation of native tree genetic material;
  • Production of propagules of native trees in numbers large enough for landscape scale restoration;
  • Site preparation of former of native tree habitat;
  • Planting of native tree seedlings; and
  • Post-planting maintenance of native trees.

In addition, competitive grants issued by this second fund would be awarded based on the degree to which the grant application addresses the following criteria:

  • Risk posed to the forests of that state by non-native pests, as measured by such factors as the number of such pests present in the state;
  • The proportion of the state’s forest composed of species vulnerable to non-native pests present in the United States; and
  • The pests’ rate of spread via natural or human-assisted means.

(To request the texts of the proposed amendments, use the “contact us” button.)

 

A Growing Chorus Sees the Same Need

A growing chorus of scientists is calling for long-term funding for forest restoration programs based partly on recent scientific breakthroughs.  So this year’s Farm Bill provides a key opportunity for initiating such programs.

 

The NIFA Letter

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture asks scientists each year to suggest their highest priorities for the agency’s research, extension, or education efforts. In December, twenty-eight scientists replied by calling for setting up a special “division” within NIFA to fund breeding of pest-resistant tree species and associated extension.

The lead authors are Pierluigi (Enrico) Bonello, Ohio State University, and Caterina Villari, University of Georgia. The 26 co-signers are scientists from 12 important research universities, along with the U.S. Forest Service (the Universities of Georgia, California (Berkeley), Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, and West Virginia; Auburn University; Michigan Technological University; North Carolina State University; Oregon State University; Purdue University; the State University of New York).

The scientists note that recent scientific advances have created a new ability to exploit genetic resistance found in the tree species’ natural populations. They assert that developing and deploying host resistance promises to improve the efficacy of various control strategies – including biocontrol – and provides a foundation for restoring forest health in the face of ever-more non-native forest pests.

The scientists’ proposal differs from CISP’s in calling for establishment of research laboratories and field study sites at several locations in the country. These would be permanently funded to conduct screening and progeny trials, and adequately staffed with permanent cadres of forest tree geneticists and breeders who would collaborate closely with staff and university pathologists and entomologists. The apparent model is the USDA Forest Service’ Dorena Genetic Resource Center  in Oregon. Dorena has had notable success with breeding Port-Orford cedar and several white pine species that are tolerant of the pathogens that threaten them.

 

POC trials at Dorena

In contrast, the CISP proposal relies largely on the chestnut model, which relies more on non-governmental organizations and wide-ranging collaboration. Our overall goal is similar, though: to provide stable funding for the decades-long programs needed to restore forest tree species.

 

American Chestnut Foundation chestnut growing in Northern Virginia

Why do we advocate grant programs instead of establishment of permanent facilities? We thought that Congress would be more likely to accept a smaller and cheaper set of grant programs in the beginning. Once the value of the long-term strategies is demonstrated more widely, supporters would have greater success in lobbying for creation of the permanent facilities.

Among the new technologies that would seem to justify the scientists’ assertion that success in breeding now appears to be more likely is the use of FT-IR and Raman spectroscopy and associated analysis of tree chemicals to identify individual trees within natural populations that have an apparent ability to tolerate disease-causing organisms. The leading scientist on the NIFA letter, Enrico Bonello, has used the technique to identify coast live oaks resistant to Phytopthora ramorum (the causal agent of sudden oak death. He is now testing whether the technique can identify Port-Orford cedar trees tolerant of the root-rot fungus Phytophthora lateralis and whitebark pines resistant to white pine blister rust.

I blogged about Enrico’s work on ash resistance to EAB here.) You can learn more about Enrico’s interesting work here.

The NAS Study

Meanwhile, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has launched a study on The Potential for Biotechnology to Address Forest Health. By the end of 2018, a committee of experts will report on the potential use of biotechnology to mitigate threats to forest tree health; identify the ecological, ethical, and social implications of deploying biotechnology in forests, and develop a research agenda to address knowledge gaps about its application. Funding for the study has been provided by The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities; several agencies within the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service; and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Committee meetings are webcast, and there are other webinars on pertinent topics. You can view the schedule and sign up to receive alerts here.

 

Background Information

Examples of tree-killing pests include such famous examples as chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease as well as less-well-known pests as soapberry borer. This map

indicates how many of the most damaging pests are established in each county of the 49 conterminous states. Descriptions of some of these insects and pathogens are provided here.

Additional tree-killing pests not included in the sources for the data supporting the map for various reasons would add to the numbers of pests in some states. Some non-native organisms have been introduced too recently, others attack palms or trees in Hawai`i; still others are native to Mexico and parts of the United States so were not included.

 

Posted by Faith Campbell

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

 

Bad News & Good News – current situation

American beech; FT Campbell

 

I recently attended USDA’s annual Interagency Research Forum on Invasive Species in Annapolis, MD,  and have good and bad news to report about forest pests – mostly about insects but also a little on weeds.

Bad News

New pest: The European leaf-mining weevil is killing American beech in Nova Scotia. Jon Sweeney of Natural Resources Canada thinks it could spread throughout the tree species’ range. (I alerted you to another new pest of beech – beech leaf disease – at the beginning of December.  Beech is already hard-hit by beech bark disease.)

Other bad news concerns the spread of already-established pests:

  1. Hemlock woolly adelgid has been detected in Nova Scotia – where it has probably been present for years.
  2. Emerald ash borer has been detected in Winnipeg, Manitoba – home to an estimated 350,000 ash trees. Winnipeg is 1,300 km (870 miles) from Saulte Ste. Marie, the closest Canadian outbreak. The closest U.S. outbreak is in Duluth, Minnesota — 378 miles.
  3. Despite strenuous efforts by Pennsylvania (supported, but not adequately, by APHIS), (see my blog from last February ), spotted lanternfly has been detected in Delaware, New York, and Virginia. A map showing locations of apple orchards in the Winchester, Virginia area is available here.
  4. There is continued lack of clarity about biology and impact of velvet longhorned beetle (see my blog from last February.) The Utah population appears to be growing. APHIS is funding efforts to develop trapping tools to monitor the species.
  5. Alerted at the Forum, I investigated a disease on oak trees caused by the pathogen Diplodia corticola. Already recorded in Florida, California, Massachusetts and Maine, last year the disease was also detected in West Virginia. Forest pathologists Danielle Martin and Matt Kasson don’t expect this disease to cause widespread mortality. However, they do expect it to weaken oaks and increase their vulnerability to other threats.

spread of laurel wilt disease

Laurel wilt disease is one of the worst of the established non-native pests. Two speakers at the Forum described its ecological impacts.

Dr. John Riggins of the University of Mississippi reported that 24 native herbivorous insects are highly dependent on plants vulnerable to the laurel wilt insect-pathogen complex. One of these, the Palamedes swallowtail butterfly (Papilio palamedes) has suffered a three-fold to seven-fold decline in populations at study sites after the death of redbay caused by laurel wilt.

Dr. Frank Koch of the USDA Forest Service expects that the disease will spread throughout most of the range of another host, sassafras. (See a map of the plant’s range). With the climate changing, the insect is unlikely to suffer winter cold mortality in the heart of the tree’s range in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia.

Apparently many birds depend on spicebush, a shrub in the Lauraceae family, but there is no easily available data on any changes to its distribution or health.

 

Good News

Other speakers at the Forum provided encouraging information.

Scientists described progress on breeding American elm trees resistant to or tolerant of the introduced Dutch elm disease (DED). USFS scientists led by James Slavicek and Kathleen Knight are trying to improve the genetic diversity and form of disease-tolerant American elms and to develop strategies for restoring them to the forest.

More than 70 seedlings planted in an orchard are being inoculated with the DED pathogen to test the trees’ tolerance. The project continues to collect seeds or cuttings from apparently resistant or tolerant trees. If you are aware of a large surviving elm in a natural setting (not urban planting), please contact the program via its website.

The project is also experimenting with methods for restoring trees in the forest. In one such experiment, elms, sycamores, and pin oaks have been planted at sites in Ohio where openings had been created by the death of ash attacked by emerald ash borer. Survival of the elm seedlings has been promising.

 

Also, there is cause to be optimistic re:

  1. Walnut / thousand cankers disease

In the East, walnut trees appear to recover from thousand cankers disease. One factor, according to Matt Ginzel of Purdue University, is that the thousand canker disease fungus, Geosmithia morbida, is a weak annual canker that would not cause branch or tree mortality in the absence of mass attack by the walnut twig beetle. Another factor is the greater reliability of precipitation in the East. Dr. Ginzel is now studying whether mass attack by the beetle is sufficient – alone – to kill walnut trees.

 

  1. b) Sirex noctilio

In Ontario, Laurel Haavik, U.S. Forest Service, finds both low impacts (so far) and evidence of resistance in some pine trees.

 

Also, scientists are making progress in developing tools for detecting and combatting highly damaging pests.

  1. Richard Stouthammer of U.C. Riverside has detected an effective chemical attractant for use in monitoring polyphagous and Kuroshio shot hole borers.  He is testing other pheromones that could improve the attractant’s efficacy. He has also detected some chemicals that apparently repel the beetles. His colleague, pathologist Akiv Eskalen, is testing endophytes that attack the beetles’ Fusarium fungus.
  2. Several scientists are identifying improved techniques for surveillance trapping for wood-boring beetles. These include Jon Sweeney of Natural Resources Canada and Jeremy Allison of the Great Lakes Forestry Centre.

 

Progress has also been made in biocontrol programs targetting non-native forest pests.

  1. Winter moth

Joseph Elkington of the University of Massachusetts reports success following 12 years of releases of the Cyzenis moth – a classical biocontrol agent that co-evolved with the winter moth in Europe. The picture is complex since the moths are eaten by native species of insects and small mammals and parasitized by a native wasp. However, native predators didn’t control the winter moth when it first entered Massachusetts.

2) Emerald ash borer

Jian Duan of the Agriculture Research Service reported that biocontrol agents targeting the  are having an impact on beetle densities in Michigan, where several parasitoids were released in 2007 to 2010. The larval parasitoid Tetrasrticus planipennisi appears to be having the greatest impact. A survey of ash saplings at these sites in 2015 found that more than 70% lacked fresh EAB galleries. In other trees, larval density was very low – a level of attack that Duan thinks the trees can survive.

However, Tetrasrticus has a short ovipositor so it is unlikely to be able to reach EAB larvae in larger trees with thicker bark. Furthermore, most of the biocontrol agents were collected at about 40o North latitude. It is unclear whether they will be as successful in controlling EAB outbreaks farther South.

Consequently, Duan noted the need to expand the rearing and release of a second, larger braconid wasp Spathius galinae, continue exploration in the southern and western edges of the EAB native range for new parasitoids; and continue work to determine the role of the egg parasitoids.

A brochure describing the U.S. EAB biocontrol program is available here

Canada began its EAB biocontrol program in 2013, using parasitoids raised by USDA APHIS. While evaluating the efficacy of these releases, Canada is also testing whether biocontrol can protect street trees.

3) Hemlock woolly adelgid

Scientists have been searching for a suite of biocontrol agents to control HWA for 25 years. Scientists believe that they need two sets of agents – those that will feed on the adelgid during spring/summer and those that will feed on HWA during winter/spring.

The first agent, Sasajiscymnus tsugae, was released in large numbers beginning in 1995. It is easy to rear. However, there are questions regarding its establishment and impact.

Laricobius nigrinus – a winter/spring feeder from the Pacific Northwest – was released beginning in 2003. It is widely established, especially in warmer areas. A related beetle, L. osakensis, was discovered in a part of Japan where eastern North American populations of HWA originated. Releases started in 2012. Scientists are hopeful that this beetle will prove more effective than some of the other biocontrol agents.

Winter cold snaps in the Northeast have killed HWA. While HWA populations often rebound quickly, predatory insects might suffer longer-term mortality. This risk intensifies the importance of finding agents that attack HWA during the spring or summer. Two new agents – the silver flies Leucopis artenticollis and L. piniperda – may be able to fill this niche. Both are from the Pacific Northwest. Initial releases have established populations.

 

4) USDA scientists are at earlier stages of actively seeking and testing possible biocontrol agents targetting Asian longhorned beetle and spotted lanternfly.

 

5) Invasive Plant Management

A study in New York City shows that invasive plant removal can have lasting effects. Lea Johnson  of the University of Maryland studied vegetation dynamics in urban forest patches in New York City. Her publications are available here.

In the 1980s New York undertook large scale restoration of its parks, including removal of invasive plants – especially multiflora rose, porcelainberry (Ampelopsis) and oriental bittersweet (Celastris). The goal was to establish self-sustaining forest with regeneration of native species. In 2006, Dr. Johnson was asked to evaluate the parks’ vegetation. She compared restored sites and similar sites without restoration.

I find it promising that Dr. Johnson found persistent differences in forest structure and composition as much as 15 or 20 years after restoration was undertaken. Treated sites had significantly lower invasive species abundance, a more complex forest structure, and greater native tree recruitment.

Still, shade intolerant species were abundant on all sites. The native shade tolerant species that had been planted did not do as well because gaps in the canopy persist.

 

CONCLUSIONS

As always, the annual Interagency Research Forum on Invasive Species provides an excellent opportunity to get an overview of non-native pest threats to America’s forests and the ever-wider range of scientists’ efforts to combat those threats. Presenters from universities as well as USDA, Canadian, and state agencies describe the status of host tree and pest species, advance promising technologies for detection, monitoring and control, and – increasingly – strategies for predicting potential pests’ likely impact. The networking opportunities are unparalleled.

 

Posted by Faith Campbell

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

 

You Might Be Surprised By Who is Authorized to Manage Wildlife on Federal Lands

mountain goats – introduced onto USFS-managed lands in the Columbia River Gorge at state initiative; in Utah, the state introduced mountain goats on lands adjacent to a USFS Research Natural Area

 

The journal Environmental Law has just published a 135-page article that debunks a common myth of wildlife management – a piece that the U.S. Forest Service tried to quash. The authors’ analysis could affect the introduction of potentially invasive non-native species – and the reintroduction of native ones – on federal lands.

Nie, M., C. Barns, J. Haber, J. Joly, K. Pitt & S. Zellmer. 2017. Fish and Wildlife Management on Federal Lands; debunking state supremacy. Environmental Law, Vol. 47, no. 4 (2017).

The article reviews the legal authority of federal and state governments to manage wildlife on federal lands.  The authors examined wildlife-related provisions within the National Park System, National Wildlife Refuge System, National Forest System, Bureau of Land Management, the special case of Alaska, the National Wilderness Preservation System, and the Endangered Species Act. They also reviewed cases where federal and state agencies came into conflict over wildlife management on federal lands.

Citing the U.S. Constitution, federal land laws, and relevant case law, the authors assert that federal agencies have an obligation, not just the discretion, to manage and conserve fish and wildlife on lands and waters under their management. They say that the often-cited statement that “the states manage wildlife and federal land agencies only manage wildlife habitat” is wrong from a legal standpoint. This is the myth that the article debunks.

Furthermore, the authors find that federal agencies frequently apply their powers in an inconsistent and sometimes even unlawful fashion. Due to political pressures, they may back down when confronted by states wanting to manage wildlife to achieve their own goals – even when the state’s goals conflict with the legally-mandated purposes of the federal land under question. Such goals might include ensuring maximum populations of “game” animals or introduction of species to new habitats – regardless of the potential impact on native plants and animals.

The authors note that federal land and wildlife laws provide ample opportunities for constructive intergovernmental cooperation in wildlife management. They call for truly mutual collaboration by federal, state, and tribal authorities in managing wildlife. However, such cooperation is blocked in part by states choosing to challenge the constitutional powers, federal land laws, and U.S. government supremacy. In addition, the authors contend, most states have not put together programs that address their own conservation obligations. These obligations are inherent in the widely recognized doctrine of wildlife being a public trust to be managed for the present and future benefit of the people, not the government or private individuals.

According to the website of the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics,  posting of a draft of this article on the University of Montana website (where lead author Martin Nie teaches) led the U.S. Forest Service to pressure the university to withdraw the article. The university refused, and the Forest Service ended its contract with Nie and his research center.

The paper can be downloaded here. We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

Posted by Faith Campbell

“Invasive Species Denialism” Increases Exponentially

 

Anthony Ricciardi and Rachael Ryan have analyzed 77 articles published from 1994 to 2016 in scholarly journals and the mainstream media that express some level of “invasive species denialism”. Denialist articles appearing in these publications have increased exponentially over the past three decades, most notably in the mainstream popular press – and they have the graph, fitted to a curve, to prove it.

The authors cite Diethelm and McKee (2009) in defining “science denialism” as “the use of rhetorical arguments to give the appearance of legitimate debate where there is none, with the ultimate goal of casting doubt on scientific consensus.” Similar strategies have appeared in disputes over the dangers of tobacco smoking and climate change.

Ricciardi and Ryan say that “[u]nlike normal scientific debates, which are evidence based, this discourse typically uses rhetorical arguments to disregard, misrepresent or reject evidence in attempt to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that species introductions pose significant risks to biological diversity and ecosystems….” In their view, the “denialist” articles assert an absence of damage from bioinvasion “despite peer-reviewed research that shows otherwise ….”  One example of evidence ignored by the contrarians are several analyses of the causes of endangerment or extinction of vertebrate species listed on the Red List maintained by the IUCN [as reported in my blog from May 2016 link]

Furthermore, these claims are almost always made in the absence of peer review – either in popular media or as opinion articles in scholarly journals. Many of the writers are social scientists and philosophers, not natural scientists. Only five of the 77 articles, or 6%, were published in natural science journals.

Ricciardi and Ryan say that unlike genuine scientific debate, “denialists” reject scientific evidence while repeating claims that have already been refuted in the scientific arena. Often, “contrarians” link invasion biology to xenophobia and latent racism, or otherwise impugn the motives of those engaged in the invasion biology field.

Ricciardi and Ryan consider possible reasons for the rise in “denialist” articles. Possible reasons include anti-regulatory ideologies, distrust of scientific institutions, conflicting values and perceptions of nature, even individuals’ desire for attention. They note that despite the absence of a true scientific controversy, the “denialists’” assertions gain credibility because science reporters think they need to present “both sides” of the argument.

Unlike the situation in the contrived controversies over climate change and risks from tobacco, we at CISP have not found a powerful industry backing the contrarians.

Ricciardi and Ryan express concern that the growing number of articles rejecting decades of research on invasive species might undermine policy initiatives at a time when invasion biology’s relevance to biosecurity, conservation, and ecosystem management is increasing. Gaining public support is critical to the success of such policies.

This concern is especially well-founded given that the authors’ results underestimate the extent of invasive species denialism. That is, they omitted from their analysis articles from internet blogs – known to be major platforms for promoting “science denialisms” – and websites that specifically attack invasion biology.

While Ricciardi and Ryan published this as a “note,” it is packed with information, e.g., references on science denialism, in general; and, in supplementary information, a table citing the 77 denialist articles.

 

SOURCE

INVASION NOTE. Ricciardi, A. & R. Ryan The exponential growth of invasive species denialism. Biological Invasions. Published online 12 September 2017

 

Invasive “hot spot” study confirms vulnerable places, causes of introductions

removing Miconia from Hawaiian forest; courtesy of the Nature Conservancy of Hawai`i

A recent article by Wayne Dawson and 24 coauthors (see reference at the end of this blog) provides the first-ever global analysis of established alien species. They studied the diversity of established alien species belonging go eight taxonomic groups – amphibians, ants, birds, freshwater fish, mammals, reptiles, spiders and vascular plants – across 609 regions (186 islands or archipelagos, and 423 mainland regions).

The analysis found that the highest numbers of established alien species in these taxonomic groups were in the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand’s North Island and the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia. The Hawaiian Islands have high numbers of invasive species in all of the eight groups studied. In New Zealand, the highest numbers were invasive plants and introduced mammals that prey on the native birds.

Florida is the top hotspot among mainland regions. Florida is followed by the California coast and northern Australia.

Burmese python in the Florida Everglades; photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Patterns

 Invasive species hotspots were found mainly on islands and in coastal regions of mainland areas. The lead author, Dr. Wayne Dawson, a researcher at Durham University’s Department of Biosciences, suggested that the greater invasive species richness in coastal regions probably results from higher rates of species introductions to port areas compared to interior regions.

Island regions have, on average, higher cross-taxon invasive species richness. This cross-taxon richness on islands tends to be higher for those islands further from continental landmasses. The authors suggest that such oceanic islands might be more likely to import large quantities of goods from foreign sources than islands close to continents, thus experiencing higher propagule pressure.

 

Associations

Regions with greater wealth (measured as per capita GNP), human population density, and area have higher established alien richness. These effects were strongest on islands. The authors suggest that wealth and human population density might correlate with higher numbers of species being brought to the region through trade and transport.

On mainlands, cooler regions have higher richness. I think this might reflect history – centuries of colonial powers importing plants and animals. However, colonial powers also introduced species to tropical regions.  In contrast, on islands warmer and wetter regions have higher richness of invasive species.

 

Drivers

The authors conclude that cumulative numbers of invasive species at a particular location are driven to a greater extent by differences in area and propagule pressure than by climate. The model that best explains cross-taxon invasive species richness combines per capita GDP, population density and sampling effort. Other important factors are area of the region, mean annual precipitation, and whether a region is on a mainland or island(s).

The study results show that, per unit increase in area, per capita GDP, and population density, invasive species richness increases at a faster rate on islands than on mainlands. This might be confirmation of the longstanding belief that islands are more readily invaded than mainlands, although the authors caution that a rigorous test of this explanation would require data on failed introductions.

The authors call for additional research to understand whether these effects arise because more species are introduced to hotspot regions, or because human disturbance in these regions makes it easier for the newcomers to find vacant spaces and opportunities to thrive.

 

I think it would be helpful to compare the findings on invasive species richness in specific regions to data on historic patterns of trade and colonization to strengthen our understanding of the importance of propagule pressure in determining invasion patterns.

 

Increasing Confirmation of Significance and Breadth of Invasive Species Threat

The Dawson et al. study is the latest in a series of analyses of global or regional patterns in invasive species. I have blogged previously about several of these:

  • Bradshaw et al. 2016 concluded that invasive insects alone cause at least $77 billion in damage every year, a figure they described as a “gross underestimate”.
  • A study by Hanno Seebens and 44 coauthors showed that the rate of new introductions of alien species has risen rapidly since about 1800 – and shows no sign of slowing down. Adoption of national and international biosecurity measures have been only partially effective, failing to slow deliberate introductions of vascular plant species, birds, and reptiles, and accidentally introduced invertebrates and pathogens. Like Dawson et al, Seebens et al. found a strong correlation between the spread of bioinvaders introduced primarily accidentally as stowaways on transport vectors or contaminants of commodities (e.g., algae, insects, crustaceans, molluscs and other invertebrates) and the market value of goods imported into the region of interest.
  • Liebhold et al. 2016(see reference below) studied insect assemblages in 20 regions around the world. They found that an insect taxon’s ability to take advantage of particular invasion pathways better explained the insect’s invasion history than the insects’ life-history traits. (The latter affect the insect’s ability to establish in a new ecosystem.)
  • Maartje J. Klapwijk and several colleagues note that growing trade in living plants and wood products has brought a rise in non-native tree pests becoming established in Europe. The number of alien invertebrate species has increased two-fold since 1950; the number of fungal species has increased four-fold since 1900.
  • Jung et al. (2015) studied the presence of Phytophthora pathogens in nurseries in Europe. They found 59 putatively alien Phytophthora taxa in the nurseries. Two-thirds were unknown to science before 1990. None had been intercepted at European ports of entry when they were introduced. Nor have strict quarantine regulations halted spread of the quarantine organism ramorum.
  • A report by The World Conservation Union (IUCN) on World Heritage sites globally found that invasive species were second to poaching as a threat to the sites’ natural values. Of 229 natural World Heritage sites examined, 104 were affected by invasive species. Island sites – especially in the tropics – were most heavily impacted.
  • Another report by IUCN found that invasive species were the second most common cause of species extinctions – especially for vertebrates.

Conclusions

These studies demonstrate that

  • Invasive species have become a significant threat to biological diversity and ecosystem services around the world – one that continues to grow.
  • The recent spate of studies originating in Europe probably reflects recent recognition of the continent’s vulnerability – as seen, inter alia, in the proliferation of tree-killing Phytophthoras.
  • Human movement of species – propagule pressure – whether deliberately or due to inadequate efforts to manage trade-related pathways – explain the bulk of “successful” introductions.
  • Economic activity drives introductions, so areas at highest immediate risk are urban areas and other centers receiving high volumes of imports and visitors. Among troubling trends in the future is rapid global urbanization – along with rising economic interdependency.
  • Efforts to curb these movements – at the national, regional, and international levels – have failed so far to counter the threat posed by invasive species of nearly all taxonomic groups.

In my view, the requirements that phytosanitary measures “balance” pest prevention against trade facilitation results in half measures being applied – and half measures achieve halfway results. For example, the U.S. does not require that packaging be made from materials that cannot transport tree-killing pests. The USDA has moved far too slowly to limit imports of plant taxa that pose a risk of either being invasive themselves or of transporting pests known to be damaging.

 

Conservationists should focus on building political pressure to strengthen regulations and other programs intended to curtail this movement. No other approach will succeed.

 

Sources

Bradshaw, C.J.A. et al. Massive yet grossly underestimated global costs of invasive insects. Nat. Commun. 7, 12986 doi: 10.1038/ncomms12986 (2016). (Open access)

Dawson, W., D. Moser, M. van Kleunen, H. Kreft, J. Perg, P. Pyšek, P. Weigelt, M. Winter, B. Lenzner, T.M. Blackburn, E.E. Dyer, P. Cassey, S.L. Scrivens, E.P. Economo, B. Guénard, C. Capinha, H. Seebens, P. García-Díaz, W. Nentwig, E. García-Berthou, C. Casal, N.E. Mandrak, P. Fuller, C. Meyer and F. Ess. 2017. Global hotspots and correlates of IAS richness across taxon groups. Nature Ecology and Evolution Vol. 1, Article 0186. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0186 | www.nature.com/natecolevol

 

Jung,T., L. Orlikowski, B. Henricot, P. Abad-Campos, A.G. Aday, O. Aguin Casa, J. Bakonyi, S.O. Cacciola, T. Cech, D. Chavarriaga, T. Corcobado, A. Cravador, T. Decourcelle, G. Denton, S. Diamandis, H.T. Doggmus-Lehtijarvi, A. Franceschini, B. Ginetti, M. Glavendekic, J. Hantula, G. Hartmann, M. Herrero, D. Ivic, M. Horta Jung, A. Lilja, N. Keca, V. Kramarets, A. Lyubenova, H. Machado, G. Magnano di San Lio, P.J. Mansilla Vazquez, B. Marais, I. Matsiakh, I. Milenkovic, S. Moricca, Z.A. Nagy, J. Nechwatal, C. Olsson, T. Oszako, A. Pane, E.J. Paplomatas, C. Pintos Varela, S. Prospero, C. Rial Martinez, D. Rigling, C. Robin, A. Rytkonen, M.E. Sanchez, B. Scanu, A. Schlenzig, J. Schumacher, S. Slavov, A. Solla, E. Sousa, J. Stenlid, V. Talgø, Z. Tomic, P. Tsopelas, A. Vannini, A.M. Vettraino, M. Wenneker, S. Woodward and A. Perez-Sierra. 2015. Widespread Phytophthora infestations in European nurseries put forest, semi-natural and horticultural ecosystems at high risk of Phytophthora disease. Forest Pathology.

 

Klapwijk, M.J., A.J.M. Hopkins, L. Eriksson, M. Pettersson, M. Schroeder, A. Lindelo¨w, J. Ro¨nnberg, E.C.H. Keskitalo, M. Kenis. 2016. Reducing the risk of invasive forest pests and pathogens: Combining legislation, targeted management and public awareness. Ambio 2016, 45(Suppl. 2):S223–S234  DOI 10.1007/s13280-015-0748-3  [http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14435 ]

 

Liebhold, A.M., T. Yamanaka, A. Roques, S. Augustin, S.L. Chown, E.G. Brockerhoff, P. Pysek. 2016. Global compositional variation among native and nonindigenous regional insect assemblages emphasizes the importance of pathways. Biological Invasions (2016) 18:893–905

 

Seebens, H. et al., 2017. No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nature Communications. January 2017. [http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14435 ]

 

 

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

 

Posted by Faith Campbell

 

 

Bill aimed at controlling invasive species on the ground advances

whitebark pine in Crater Lake National Park killed by white pine blister rust; photo by F.T. Campbell

In the first days of April, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee  adopted the Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver Act (S. 826) (the WILD Act).

Title II of this legislation would amend the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act by inserting language very similar to the Federal Land Invasive Species Control, Prevention, and Management Act (S. 509).  I blogged last year about that  bill and a hearing about it here.

Our concerns at the time focused on:

  • The provision allowing invasive control projects to proceed without first being evaluated by an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment. Lack of careful analysis could expose the environment to additional damage. For example, use of herbicides or grazing to control invasive plants can lead to suppression of native forbs. Suppressing invasion by one set of plants – whatever the strategy used – often facilitates a secondary invasion.
  • The mandatory funding allocations – which severely limit funds available to support research, outreach, and strategic planning and coordination – could undercut activities crucial to development and implementation of effective strategies and management tools.
  • The mandatory goal of reducing invasive species populations by 5% per year is unrealistic.
  • New requirements on reporting and coordination might divert already-thin resources and delay needed action.
  • Priority-setting. Managing invasive species on national lands should reflect national goals and perspectives, not be set by states’ governors.

Caroline Murphy of The Wildlife Society and I have reviewed Title II of the new WILD Act and find that it differs from last year’s invasive species control bill in several important ways:

  • The bill now applies to a wider range of agencies. The Secretary of the Army (who supervises the Corps of Engineers) is included explicitly; he joins the secretaries of Interior and Agriculture (as supervisor of the Forest Service). In addition, the bill also applies to the head of “any federal agency” having duties related to planning or treatment of invasive species “for the purpose of protecting water and wildlife on land and in water.”
  • Most important, projects are no longer granted a “Categorical Exclusion” from preparing environmental impact analyses. Instead, under an “Expedited Action” provision, the Secretaries are instructed to use all existing legal tools and flexibilities to expedite projects and activities.
  • The bill still requires that 75% of invasive species funds be allocated to “on-the-ground control and management of invasive species.” But such activity now may include “the use of appropriate methods to remove invasive species from a vehicle or vessel capable of conveyance.” I wish the language also included efforts to prevent invasive species from being present in or on the vehicle or vessel.
  • The bill has dropped the requirement that invasive species’ populations be reduced by 5% annually. The bill now requires the Secretaries to develop a strategic plan “to achieve, to the maximum extent practicable, a substantive annual net reduction of invasive species populations or infested acreage on land or water” that the Secretary manages. It is still not clear whether that reduction should apply to some or all of the invasive species there.

I am still concerned that

  • Projects are to use least-cost methods. This requirement is likely to favor reliance on chemical controls, which could have significant non-target impacts and might not provide lasting control. This incentive might be counter-balanced by the requirement that the methods be effective, based on sound scientific data. However, the bill’s focus on measuring annual results rather than long-term efficacy will add to pressures to rely on short-term approaches that could undermine long-term effectiveness.
  • Leadership of the projects – especially setting priorities – will be in hands of state governments, not the federal agencies which have the responsibility under federal law to manage the lands and waters that are to be protected. A partial counter-balance is the requirement that the appropriate federal agency Secretary determine which lands or waters need immediate action to address the invasive species risk.  Furthermore, the expedited actions are to be carried out in accordance with agency procedures, including any applicable land or resource management plan

I welcome the requirement that the Secretaries, in developing their strategic plans, must take into consideration the ecological as well as the economic costs of acting or not acting.

As before, the projects are to be carried out through collaboration with wide range of partners, including private individuals and entities – apparently including non-governmental organizations such as state or local invasive plant coalitions.

The rest of the WILD Act would reauthorize the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, some Multinational Species Conservation Fund Programs, and create several conservation-related competitive grant programs to be managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, one of which is for the management of invasive species.

Now that these provisions are incorporated into a wider bill, and Senator Barasso is chairman of the full committee, adoption of some version of this legislation now seems more likely than I thought last year.  Apparently there is still no action in House on the parallel bill.

While I am heartened by some of the changes in the bill since last year, I continue to think that America’s public lands would be better protected by a more comprehensive approach that includes prevention, mapping, early detection, research, prioritization, coordination and outreach aimed at engaging key stakeholders.  Such an approach was outlined in a document developed a couple of years ago by the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS) – available here.

Posted by Faith Campbell

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

Alien species introductions — going up!

trade transports many invasive species

Containers at Long Beach, California; courtesy of the Port Authority

In an article published recently in Nature Communications , Hanno Seebens and 44 coauthors show that the rate of new introductions of alien species has risen rapidly since about 1800 – and shows no sign of slowing down. See a summary of the article with revealing graphs here .

Through analysis of a database covering 45,813 first records of 16,926 alien species established in 282 distinct geographic regions, the authors determined that the number of new species reports reached a maximum of 585 in 1996 (or an average of more than 1.5 sightings per day).

Of course, whether a species’ introduction is detected depends on a variety of factors. One of the most important is the species’ impact – or lack thereof! – on economically important resources – this determines whether the species gets noticed. Furthermore, detection usually happens some time after a species’ actual introduction. And, regardless of factors motivating human attention, some types of species are more easily detected than others. All these factors skew the findings. Because many introductions are not detected, Seebens et al. note, their data underestimate actual introductions.

The authors found that the adoption of national and international biosecurity measures during the 20th century have slowed introductions – but they are not yet sufficiently effective. Most notably, numbers of reported new introductions of fish and mammals have decreased since the early 1950s. Of course, introductions of these taxa are usually the result of deliberate decisions, usually by authorities. It is encouraging that authorities appear to be getting the message that adding new species to an ecosystem is a risky enterprise.

 

Japanese honeysuckle; courtesy of Bugwood.org

However, not all deliberate introductions have been curbed. Seebens et al. were surprised to see that vascular plant species introductions remained at such a high rate throughout the 20th century. Introductions of birds and reptiles also continue to rise, largely as pets in countries with strengthening economies.

For those plants and animals that are introduced primarily accidentally as stowaways on transport vectors or contaminants of commodities (e.g., algae, insects, crustaceans, molluscs and other invertebrates), Seebens et al. found a strong correlation between their spread and the market value of goods imported into the region of interest.

Having noted that almost all biosecurity efforts are not yet slowing introductions adequately, Seebens et al. point to New Zealand as the exception. That country adopted the Biosecurity Act in 1993 and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act in 1996.

Although 20 years is a short period to gauge a policy’s efficacy – especially given time lags in detecting introductions – Seebens et al. say the stringent new policy appears to be succeeding. They found a significant decline in the number of new alien plants detected in New Zealand since the 1990s. New Zealand’s laws rely on a “white list” of permitted species rather than the more usual “black list” of prohibited species. New Zealand requires a risk assessment before a decision is made to allow any new species to be brought into the country.

Of course, such an approach does not apply easily to the taxa most often introduced as unintended hitchhikers on, or as contaminants of, imported goods, packaging, or transport vehicles – such as tree-killing insects and diseases. The paper notes that existing biosecurity regimes have not slowed down the accumulation of alien species introductions overall, but especially those arriving mainly accidentally, such as invertebrates and pathogens.

As a consequence, Seebens et al. expect that the numbers of new alien species will continue to increase.

I have previously blogged about other studies that show continuing introductions of forest pests and other specific taxonomic groups.  See blogs about (1) 2014 IUCN report on invasive species threats to World Heritage sites; (2) IUCN analysis of red-book-listed species – causes of endangerment; (3) rate of new plant pests being detected in US; (4) Jung et al. on Phytophthoras in Europe; (5) Zamir’s critique of international the phytosanitary system; (6) Klapwjik et al. on European efforts to strengthen regulations governing movement of living plants; (7) ISPM#15 11th anniversary.

Other recent studies have also examined the bioinvasion situation for the whole Earth or major regions. Liebhold et al. 2016 studied insect assemblages in 20 regions around the world. They found that which insect orders are present in a particular region differs completely depending on whether one is looking at native or at nonindigenous assemblages. The authors believe that difference is largely caused by the varying probability that an insect taxon can take advantage of one or more high-volume invasion pathways – such as trade in agricultural products, movement of plants by international travelers, shipments of stored grain, trade in living plants, hitchhiking (e.g. on the outside of shipping containers) and wood packaging. Pathway association appeared to be more important than insects’ life-history traits, which affect their ability to establish in a new ecosystem.

Maartje J. Klapwijk and several colleagues note that growing trade in living plants and wood products has brought a rise in non-native tree pests becoming established in Europe. The number of alien invertebrate species has increased two-fold since 1950; the number of fungal species has increased four-fold since 1900.

Jung et al. (2015) studied the presence of Phytophthora pathogens in nurseries in Europe. They found

  • Two-thirds of the Phytophthora taxa detected in European nurseries by the present study were unknown to science before 1990.
  • None of the 59 putatively exotic Phytophthora taxa detected in the present study had been intercepted at European ports of entry.
  • Spread of the quarantine organism ramorum has not been halted despite the presence of strict quarantine regulations.

I will post a blog examining introduction rates for tree-killing insects and pathogens specifically in the near future. In the meantime, see the published studies listed below as well as my earlier blogs and fact sheets posted here .

Aukema, J.E., B. Leung, K. Kovacs, C. Chivers, K. O. Britton, J. Englin, S.J. Frankel, R. G. Haight, T. P. Holmes, A. Liebhold, D.G. McCullough, B. Von Holle.. 2011. Economic Impacts of Non-Native Forest Insects in the Continental United States PLoS One September 2011 (Volume 6 Issue 9)

Aukema, J.E., D.G. McCullough, B. Von Holle, A.M. Liebhold, K. Britton, & S.J. Frankel. 2010. Historical Accumulation of Nonindigenous Forest Pests in the Continental United States. Bioscience. December 2010 / Vol. 60 No. 11

Haack RA, Britton KO, Brockerhoff EG, Cavey JF, Garrett LJ, et al. (2014) Effectiveness of the International Phytosanitary Standard ISPM No. 15 on Reducing Wood Borer Infestation Rates in Wood Packaging Material Entering the United States. PLoS ONE 9(5): e96611. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096611

Leung, B., M.R. Springborn, J.A. Turner, E.G. Brockerhoff. 2014. Pathway-level risk analysis: the net present value of an invasive species policy in the US. The Ecological Society of America. Frontiers of Ecology.org

Liebhold, A.M., T. Yamanaka, A. Roques, S. Augustin, S.L. Chown, E.G. Brockerhoff, P. Pysek. 2016.  Global compositional variation among native and nonindigenous regional insect assemblages emphasizes the importance of pathways. Biological Invasions (2016) 18:893–905

Lovett, G.M., M. Weiss, A.M. Liebhold, T.P. Holmes, B. Leung, K.F. Lambert, D.A. Orwig , F.T. Campbell, J. Rosenthal, D.G. McCullough, R. Wildova, M.P. Ayres, C.D. Canham, D.R. Foster, S.L. LaDeau, and T. Weldy. 2016. Nonnative forest insects and pathogens in the United States: Impacts and policy options. Ecological Applications, 0(0), 2016, pp. 1–19. DOI 10.1890/15-1176.1

 

 

Posted by Faith Campbell

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

 

New Secretary of Interior Pledges to Support Invasive Species Efforts — Let’s Ask USDA Secretary to do the Same!

Interior Secretary nominee Ryan Zinke

During his confirmation hearing Ryan Zinke, nominated to be the new Secretary of Interior, committed to several senators that he would explore ways to better manage invasive species on federal lands – especially in National parks – and to strengthen the National Invasive Species Council (NISC).

Mr. Zinke is currently a Congressional Representative from Montana. Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI) pressed him on invasive species issues during the hearing, focusing on the threat to the Great Lakes of carp and other aquatic species. Also, Senators Al Franken (MN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Mazie K. Hirono (HI) asked about invasive species in written questions submitted to the nominee.

Mr. Zinke answered most questions the same way:  He shares the Senator’s concern, especially since  Montana has significant invasive species problems. Also, he thinks it is critical that federal land managers be encouraged and empowered to be good neighbors in controlling invasive species in cooperation with adjacent private land owners. …  Specifically he wants to explore ways to implement the Early Detection Rapid Response Framework adopted by NISC in 2016.

 

* Sen. Franken included a single question on bioinvaders among a long list of questions on other topics. He mentioned the emerald ash borer as one example of a damaging invader in Minnesota. Senator Franken asked Mr. Zinke:

1) what steps he would take to enhance invasive species control on public lands

See paragraph above for Mr. Zinke’s answer.

2) whether he would enforce the Lacey Act and explore ways to strengthen it.

Mr. Zinke said he would enforce the law. He is aware that there is broad bipartisan frustration with the lack of an efficient process for listing injurious species under the Act. He would ask the Fish and Wildlife Service to recommend ways to improve its implementation. If legislative changes might be helpful, he would be pleased to have that conversation with the Congress.

 

* Sen. Manchin’s first question (!) asked how Mr. Zinke might strengthen NISC to help manage invaders across multiple types of land ownership. See Mr. Zinke’s frequent reference to his Montana experience above for his answer.

 

* Sen. Hirono asked five questions pertaining to invasive species! Her first question concerned steps to protect National parks (especially in Hawaii) from bioinvasion. Here, Mr. Zinke gave his usual response but added: “I am especially concerned that Hawaii’s unique flora and fauna are vulnerable to invasive species. I would not want to see invasive species push any of these unique plants and animals onto the Endangered Species list. Once confirmed, I will ask the National Park Service to present me with options for better protecting our national parks from invasive species.”

 

Ms. Hirono also asked about strengthening NISC. Mr. Zinke responded as follows: “…, I will explore ways to improve the operations of the National Invasive Species Council, and actively engage with the Secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture to get off to a strong start on this issue. … We also need to create a more effective linkage between the National Invasive Species Council policy operation in Washington, DC, and the on the ground federal land managers across the country who deal with invasive species on a daily basis…”

 

Also, Sen. Hirono asked for Mr. Zinke to help Hawai`i and other U.S. Pacific islands to counter the spread of invasive species through movement of military equipment. Mr. Zinke said he would work to enhance coordination with the Department of Defense and the Pacific island communities to reduce the risks posed by invasive species. … explore how we may implement the recent framework for early detection and rapid response …

 

Mr. Zinke also promised to work with Senator Hirono on several issues under Interior jurisdiction that are priorities for Hawai`i, among them invasive species.

 

 

What We Should Ask the new President & Congress to Do re: Invasive Species

While there are many opportunities for the Congress to strengthen U.S. invasive species programs (see my blog from December 31 here, the most important activity NOW is the confirmation of Sonny Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture. Contact your Senators and urge them to ask Governor Perdue how he will address invasive species challenges.

USDA Secretary nominee Sonny Perdue

Possible questions:

Q: How serious do you think is the threat to American natural resources from invasive (non-native) insects, pathogens, and plants? Can you suggest steps you would take to strengthen the efforts of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) aimed at controlling introduction and spread of such bioinvaders into the United States?

Q: The principal legal authority for preventing introductions of invasive plants and plant pests is the Plant Protection Act. The PPA provides strong authority but its implementation has been hampered by internal USDA decisions. How would you ensure that the Department corrects these problems and actively enforces its regulations aimed at ensuring the health and productivity of America’s plant resources?

  • In recent years, more than 20 previously undetected plant pests have been detected in the country each year. Hundreds of shipments of goods entering the country each year contain plant pests. What strategies would you promote to reduce the introduction, spread, and impacts of invasive species?

Q: Given the ever-tightening budget allocated to agencies responsible for addressing invasive species threats, what steps would you take to ensure that our country does not suffer waves of new invasions?

If you have a working relationship with your Senators and believe they understand the invasive species issue fairly well, you might want to suggest more detailed questions:

Q: As you know, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is responsible for preventing introduction and spread of plant pests.

  • In some cases, APHIS has been hesitant to use its authority to penalize importers which routinely receive shipments that violate plant pest (phytosanitary) regulations. [You might cite my blog from last week  which illustrates examples pertaining to wood packaging.] Will you instruct APHIS to use its legal authority to impose civil penalties to deter continuing violations?

 

  • Trying to prevent pest introductions by increasing the percentage of shipments that are inspected visually will not be effective in many cases. This is true especially with regard to one of the most important pathways by which plant pests are introduced – imports of living plant material such as nursery stock. APHIS began updating its regulations governing plant imports nearly four years ago, but the proposed new regulations have been not been finalized. Will you look into the reasons for delay and take steps to update these regulations to focus on pathway cleanliness rather than continue to rely on ineffective visual inspections?

Q: Urban forests across the country are under threat from a growing number of non-native or introduced insect pests. Examples include the emerald ash borer – now found in 27 states; Asian longhorned beetle – which threatens a large proportion of urban trees across the country; and polyphagous and Kuroshio shot hole borers – killing many trees in southern California.

Urban forests are at particularly high risk of infestation by non-native pests because they are growing near ports and other transportation hubs where such pests are first introduced. Furthermore, each individual tree in an urban setting provides important benefits in the form of shade, moderation of storm water runoff, abatement of air pollutants, enhanced property values, and neighborhood amenities.

  • Will you fully utilize the authorities under the Plant Protection Act to help ensure the health and productivity of America’s urban forests?
  • [If you have not already suggested the questions outlined above re: wood packaging and other pathways, you might suggest them in this context.]

 

The Secretary of Agriculture also oversees the Forest Service. Pertinent questions:

Q: Invasives are as great a threat to eastern forests as wildfires are in the West. Despite the growing damage and ecological destruction we are witnessing the budgets for research on strategies to minimize these bioinvaders’ impacts are actually falling. How will you work to provide solutions to this quandary?

As I said in my blog at the end of December, what is missing is a political demand for action – and support for necessary staff and funding. Agencies under the secretaries of Agriculture and Interior bear most of the responsibility for managing invasive species. As long as these officials are not being pressed by key Congressional committees, the media, and key stakeholders to take more aggressive and effective action to curtail species introductions and suppress established populations of bioinvaders, they will continue to focus their attention on issues that do generate these kinds of political pressure.

Posted by Faith Campbell

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

 

What the new President & Congress Can Do re: Invasive Species

 White House

 

A new President and Congress take office in January.  And outgoing President Obama recently amended the Executive Order on invasive species.

What might the new leaders do to improve America’s invasive species programs?

Here are a group of actions that I think would improve programs significantly:

  • amend the Lacey Act to strengthen controls over introduction and spread of invasive animals and animal diseases;
  • raise the political profile of invasive species issues by holding more frequent oversight hearings;
  • increase funding for invasive species prevention, containment, and control programs;
  • support proposals to amend the 2019 Farm Bill to strengthen on-the-ground programs, policies, and research aimed at minimizing invasive species introduction, spread, and damage;
  • during the confirmation process, Senators should ask President Trump’s nominees to leadership positions in the Departments of Agriculture and Interior about how they will address invasive species challenges.

Do we need new legislation mandating that federal land-managing agencies do X or Y with regard to invasive species? This was the focus of a hearing in May at which I testified.

Federal land-managing agencies are already authorized and – in some cases required – to act to control invasive species on lands and waters under their jurisdiction.  Some of the existing statutes even authorize the agencies to apply fees paid by people who use the public lands for some purpose (e.g., livestock grazing, recreation) to management of invasive species.

Most of the statutes authorizing invasive species management incorporate that activity into the agency’s broader management goals for protection of wildlife, habitat, natural resources, historic or cultural sites, etc.  For example, the USFS Manual §2900 lists 21 laws and 6 regulations or policies that govern the USFS’ management of invasive species.  Some of these laws apply to all federal land-managing agencies, including:

  • Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 (16 U.S.C. §§1531 et seq.)
  • Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (30 U.S.C. 1201, 1201 (note), 1236, 1272, 1305). §515
  • North American Wetland Conservation Act 1989 (16 U.S.C. 4401 (note), 4401-4413, 16 U.S.C. 669b (note)). §9 [U.S.C. 4408]
  • Sikes Act (Fish and Wildlife Conservation) of September 15, 1960 (16 U.S.C. 670g-670l, 670o, P.L. 86-797), as amended. §201
  • National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 [16 U.S.C. §§470 et seq.]
  • Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. §§1131 et seq.

Other statutes apply only to resource management authorities of the USDA Forest Service; these include:

  • Organic Administration Act of 1897 (16 U.S.C. §§ 473 et seq.).
  • Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (16 U.S.C. § 661 et seq.).
  • Knutson-Vandenberg Act of June 9, 1930 (16 U.S.C. 576, 576a-576b). §3 [16 U.S.C. 576b]
  • Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act of 1937 (7 U.S.C. §§1010 et seq.)
  • Anderson-Mansfield Reforestation and Revegetation Act of October 11, 1949 (16 U.S.C. 581j (note), 581j, 581k)
  • Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. §§528 et seq.)
  • Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) of 1974 as amended by the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976. §6
  • International Forestry Cooperation Act of 1990 (16 U.S.C. § 4501)
  • Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (H.R. 1904), [16 U.S.C. 6501-6502, 6511-18, 6541-42, 6571-78]
  • Wyden Amendment (P.L. 109-54, Section 434).
For brief descriptions of all these statutes, see the references and links at the end of this blog posting.

Advocates have tried before to legislate a specific requirement that federal agencies combat invasive species.  The Federal Noxious Weed Act of 1974 (7 U.S.C. § 2801 note; 7 U.S.C. § 2814) was amended in 1990 to add §15, “Management of Undesirable Plants on Federal Lands”.  This section requires each federal agency to

1) designate an office or person adequately trained to develop and coordinate an undesirable plants management program for control of undesirable plants on federal lands under the agency’s jurisdiction, and

2) establish and adequately fund an undesirable plants management program through the agency’s budgetary process,

3) complete and implement cooperative agreements with state agencies regarding the management of undesirable plant species on federal lands, and

4) establish integrated management systems to control or contain undesirable plant species targeted under cooperative agreements.

This approach hasn’t worked – no one is satisfied by the federal agencies’ “weed” management efforts.

 

Capitol

What is missing is a political demand for action – and support for necessary staff and funding. Agencies under the secretaries of Agriculture and Interior bear most of the responsibility for managing invasive species.  As long as these officials are not being pressed by key Congressional committees, the media, and key stakeholders to take more aggressive and effective action to curtail species introductions and suppress established populations of bioinvaders, they will continue to focus their attention on issues that do generate these kinds of political pressure.

I am not saying that the principal statutes governing invasive species management could not be improved.  As noted above, several proposals have been put forward to strengthen laws which are the foundation for preventing introduction of invasive species.  I will blog about specific proposals in the new year.

 

Sources

USFS Invasive Species Manual

ANSTF/NISC report “Federal Policy Options Addressing the Movement of Aquatic Invasive Species Onto and Off of Federal Lands and Waters. 2015.  Committee on the Movement of Aquatic Invasive Species both onto and off of Federal Lands and Waters.

Posted by Faith Campbell

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

A Red List for Trees!

16 dead sweet bay + grpF.T. Campbell  dead sweetbay, Florida Everglades

At the global level, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) is the recognized leader in conservation.  Information from the IUCN’s Red List has been widely used to inform conservation policies and legislation, as a tool for environmental monitoring and reporting, and to prioritize areas for conservation action.

 

The IUCN is holding its World Conservation Congress in Honolulu during the first half of September.  The several sessions focused on both invasive species and forests have been grouped into “Journeys”.  The invasive species Journey schedule is available here.  The schedule for the forest Journey is available here   I don’t think either puts much emphasis on the year-old Tree Specialist Group.

 

Over the decades, the Union has increasingly engaged on plant conservation issues. The plants under consideration now include trees! There are multiple ways that you can be part of this important effort. Details are below. One of the efforts’ leaders assures me that the IUCN process will address tree species not yet “endangered” but under severe pressure – currently or virtually certainly in the near future – from established non-native insects and pathogens.

 

The IUCN has noted that trees have high ecological, economic, and cultural value. Forests are being converted or degraded by many human-related activities, including overharvesting, fire and grazing – to say nothing of climate change and non-native pests. Yet – the impacts of forest conversion and degradation on tree species per se are largely unknown. How many tree species qualify for a “Red List” category: extinct, critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable? (For a discussion of the criteria applied in assigning categories, go here.

(Of course, full-scale extinction or endangerment of a species is the extreme; ecological damage begins earlier and more locally, as the species declines as the result of a suite of pressures …)

 

The IUCN has formed a Global Tree Specialist Group to conduct a comprehensive conservation assessment of the world’s tree species, linked to IUCN’s Red List. The effort is being led by the Tree Specialist Group  and the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). The group’s mission, underlying considerations and process are described in an article published in the Oryx article cited below.

 

IUCN has recently completed analyses of extinction risk in selected animal groups. They concluded that 14% of bird, 33% of amphibian, and 22% of mammal species are either threatened or extinct.

 

Preparing the same type of analysis for tree species will be more complicated. First there are many more plant species than ones in the selected groups of animals. Scientists don’t know the total number of extant tree species. One estimate is 60,000.  If that estimate is in the ballpark, the status of approximately 84% of tree species has not yet been assessed. Assessments of tree species begun in the 1990s have resulted in approximately 9,500 species being included in one of the Red List categories.  They represent slightly less than half of all plant species listed.

 

To achieve the goal of assessing the status of all tree species by 2020, organizers plan to adopt the approach used successfully in the recent assessments of vertebrate groups – mobilizing global data sets (which have become more numerous and easier to use) and hundreds of volunteer experts.

 

To start, the Group is focused on specific plant families with high numbers of trees, e.g., Aquifoliaceae, Fabaceae, Fagaceae, Lauraceae, Meliaceae and Myrtaceae. Combined, these families include more than 20,000 species. Assessments of Betulaceae and Ebenaceae have already started, led by BGCI and the Missouri Botanical Garden, respectively.

 

Project leaders hope to complete 5,000 more tree assessments – new or updates – during 2016.

 

What is Under Way

 

Other IUCN specialist groups are assisting in assessing the status of trees in various geographic regions or with particular human uses. The IUCN Plants for People initiative is already assessing timber, medicinal and crop wild relatives. The Crop Wild Relative Specialist Group has prepared draft assessments for over 90 woody species of Malus, Prunus, Pistacia and Mangifera. Specialist Groups and Red List authorities in South Africa, Brazil, and East Africa and several island groups are contributing.

 

A third focus will be tree species presumed to be most at risk from climate change, e.g., montane and island trees. IUCN Specialist Groups in Hawai`i, New Caledonia, Galapagos, Mascarene Islands, Fiji, and Madagascar are working.

 

The BGCI is making progress on assessing Europe’s non-coniferous trees. If you wish to help, contact Malin Rivers at malin.rivers@bgci.org.

 

In North America, the U.S. Forest Service hosted a meeting on “Gene Conservation of Tree Species” at the Morton Arboretum in Chicago in May 2016. Murphy Westwood facilitated a special session during which “listing” experts from IUCN, NatureServe, USFS CAPTURE Program, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service compared their assessment processes and discussed how data might be shared more efficiently. A goal of completing the IUCN Red List of North American Trees was agreed on. The Morton Arboretum will help coordinate the effort. To contribute please contact Murphy Westwood at mwestwood@morton.org.  

 

One suggestion was to conduct an IUCN Red List assessment for the genus Fraxinus. Two ash species – one Asian, one Central American – are included in the IUCN Red List (although one needs to be updated). Jeanne Romero-Severson of Notre Dame University has offered to undertake assessments for green ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica, and black ash, Fraxinus nigra. If you wish to help, contact Sara Oldfield at sara@saraoldfield.net.

 

(I think several other species also warrant IUCN assessment, including redbay Persea borbonia, tanoak Notholithocarpus densiflorus, and whitebark pine Pinus albicaulis)

 

This IUCN effort represents yet a fourth set of people examining tree-pest interactions – people integrated into traditional, internationally-focused conservation organizations. There are at least three other groups already involved: (1) forest pest experts in academia and government agencies, (2) people who focus on invasive species, and (3) phytosanitary officials. I think that these latter three groups already interact less smoothly than would be ideal. How can we all combine our efforts to enhance protection programs?

 

Might more of the scientists who work on insects and pathogens attacking tree species join the IUCN Tree Specialist group? Might organizers of meetings make a greater effort to engage people from all four silos in discussions of strategies? Might some virtual for a be established that could facilitate communication across the gaps – perhaps emphasizing the gap between invasive species experts and phytosanitary officials?

 

Finally, how can we use the new focus on tree species’ degree of endangerment to enhance efforts to prevent and respond to invasions by non-native insects and pathogens? How do we link these concerns to existing attention to the ecological and economic impacts – which begin to manifest long before a species qualifies as “endangered”.  How can the various approaches reinforce each other?

 

SOURCES

 

 

Newton, A., S. Oldfield, M. Rivers, J. Mark, G. Schatz, N. Tejedor Garavito, E. Cantarello, D. Golicher, L. Cayuela, and L. Miles. 2015. Towards a Global Tree Assessment. Oryx, Volume 49, Issue 3, July 2015, pp. 410-415.

 

Explanatory information available at

https://www.bgci.org/plant-conservation/globaltreeassessment/

https://www.bgci.org/files/GTA/GTALeaflet%20FINAL.pdf

 

The GTSG Newsletter is apparently available only to those who are part of the IUCN network.

 

For more information, contact Sara Oldfield, Co-Chair GTSG, at sara@saraoldfield.net

 

 

 

Posted by Faith Campbell