Forest Health Monitoring
Since its inception in 1990, the Forest Health Monitoring Program (FHM) in the Southern Region has operated with partnerships. FHM started with three pioneering states—Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia. Today, all 13 states participate in the program. The state forestry agencies, Forest Health Protection (FHP) and the Southern Research Station’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) unit jointly implement various aspects of the program.
- Fixed plot monitoring is administered and implemented by FIA in partnership with the 13 southern states. The FHM detection plot grid (P3) is a sampling subset of the forest inventory (P2) plot grid. Both are measured in a 5-year repeating cycle with a little over 1/5 of the plots measured each year.
- Off-plot (aerial and ground survey) monitoring is implemented by the states and FHP. Mortality and defoliation events are mapped according to national standards and are collated into a national map of forest damage each year. But off-plot survey activity can be highly flexible and responsive, addressing any forest damage issue in any forest environment at any time. Several states have utilized funding to upgrade their survey capabilities and technology with digital aerial sketchmapping and global positioning system equipment. Funding is determined by formula and is an enhancement to normal Cooperative Forest Health Program funding and activities.
- Special detection projects are funded separately and are addressing pests such as sudden oak death and laurel wilt diseases.
- Sudden oak death surveys were initiated in 2003 due to the threat of the introduction of this pathogen via nursery stock to the eastern hardwood (oak) forests. Five Southern states began in 2003 as a pilot; survey work expanded to eleven states in 2004 and remains active in 9 southern states in 2010.
- Detection surveys for laurel wilt disease began in 2004 in South Carolina and Georgia soon after this disease was discovered on the coast of Georgia near Savannah. Survey work expanded quickly into Florida as well as the disease spread. In 2009, laurel wilt was discovered in Jackson County, Mississippi, hundreds of miles from the affected areas on the east coast. Survey work is now being implemented in southern Mississippi.
Evaluation monitoring projects are proposed and funded competitively each year to address forest health issues by investigating causes, extent and severity, ecological impacts, management questions, etc. The top projects submitted to the region are competed nationally for funding. A small pool of regional funds is available to fund smaller projects of regional interest.
FHM also spearheads other projects of regional and national scope such as the 2012 revision of the National Insect & Disease Risk Map (NIDRM). Risk maps were produced in 1996 and 2006. Improvements in technology allow revisions of the map with better results every 5-10 years. The 2012 revision is currently well underway. More detail about the project can be found at:
Risk maps (2006) for the 13 Southern Region states can be viewed at:
For information about the 2006 NIDRM go to:
The Regional FHM staff consists of a Regional Coordinator who works with national and regional FHM staff, Southern Region FHP staff, state forest health specialists, and FIA staff to implement the program.
Dale A. Starkey, Plant Pathologist and
Southern Forest Health Monitoring Program Manager
USDA Forest Service, Southern Region
State & Private Forestry, Forest Health Protection
Alexandria Field Office
2500 Shreveport Hwy.
Pineville, Louisiana 71360
For more information, access the National Forest Health Monitoring Program web page at:
Updated: September 2010