Identification and prevention of new pest introductions rely on a core of biological science expertise in Forest Service research. A recent study identified key pathways for forest insect pests and diseases. The most common pathway is plants for planting, or nursery stock. The U.S. imported over 2.5 billion plants in fiscal year 2010, and about 10% of shipments contain actionable pests. Because there are only 65 inspectors in our plant inspection stations, they cannot inspect them all. Many pests are very hard to detect, so they slip through undetected. Fortunately, not all survive, and not all of those cause significant damage. But recent examples of pests that likely arrived on this pathway include sudden oak death, citrus longhorned beetle, and light brown apple moth.
The second most common pathway for forest pests is wood products and wood packing materials. We all enjoy the variety and lower costs of products which we as a society achieve with free trade. Through international collaborations, Forest Service researchers have helped develop treatments that reduce pest risk in trade flows. They are working with partners to understand the costs and benefits of trade, and to balance these with costs associated with losses of urban landscape and forest trees.
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