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Managing Native Insects & Diseases

Red Oak Borer

Red Oak Borer A severe episode of oak decline is occurring in the Ozark and Ouachita mountains of Arkansas and Missouri. Oak decline is a natural and complex phenomenon with multiple causes, none of which can be addressed alone to significantly decrease tree decline. In the current episode, populations of red oak borer have exploded, causing widespread mortality of oaks and significant degrade in forest products.

Mortality of northern red, black, scarlet and southern red oaks became particularly evident in 1999 following 3 years of severe drought. White oaks, hickories and other species are affected as well, but to a much lesser extent. Increased rainfall in 2003 helped break the drought, but tree mortality has continued, although at a reduced rate. Red oak borer populations, however, appear to remain high.

A comprehensive “Oak Mortality Action Plan for the Ozark Highlands Region” has been prepared to address this problem. Due to limited funds only a portion of the strategy has been implemented. On the Ozark National Forest, in the past 2 years, over 560 miles of road have been treated to remove hazard trees and over 1,000 miles of road have been surveyed. The prevention efforts have included 1,500 acres of release in young hardwood plantations. Ranger Districts have also implemented prescribed burns for hazardous fuel reduction and wildlife habitat improvement on 25,000 acres. The Nature Conservancy has proposed a large project in FY 04 to expand these management efforts.

  • Since 1999, hundreds of thousands of acres of red oaks across all ownerships in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri have been killed by oak decline and unprecedented high populations of the red oak borer.
  • The Ozark-St. Francis National Forests have been affected most severely, but the Ouachita and Mark Twain National Forests are impacted as well.
  • Action plans for the separate national forests and an overall action plan for the Highlands region have been completed but funds are lacking for full implementation.