Invasive Pest and Firewood Outreach in Utah

Guest blog by Lori Spears, Invasive Species Survey Coordinator for Utah State University Extension

Invasive species are a growing threat to our nation’s agricultural and natural resources. In Utah, nearly a dozen insect and disease pathogen pests have arrived over the last decade, including spotted wing drosophila (SWD) and brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). These two insects  were first detected in Utah in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Although they have not yet reached economically injurious levels in Utah, they occur in fruit and vegetable production sites and have the potential for significant negative impacts. Another invasive insect, the emerald ash borer (EAB), is expected to reach Utah in the near future. EAB is known to occur in 27 eastern and mid-western states, and is rapidly expanding its range. It has not yet been found in Utah, but an infestation has been found in neighboring Boulder, Colorado. Unfortunately, research shows that EAB is generally established in an area for several years before it is detected, and so there is a chance that EAB is already present in Utah.

2017 Poster Designs for Utah Based Forest Pest Outreach

In response to new and emerging invasive insect threats, Utah’s plan for invasive pest and firewood outreach include preparing the citizens of Utah with the knowledge and skills necessary to identify potential invasive insects and/or help stop their introduction and spread. Involving everyday citizens in early detection of invasive species has been highly successful across the United States. For example, it was a trained Master Gardener who first detected the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) in Orem, Utah, which led to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food implementing an intense eradication program to prevent its establishment. Utah’s interagency partnership group includes the Utah Plant Pest Laboratory at Utah State University (USU), USU Extension, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, and USDA-APHIS-PPQ.

This year’s activities include:

  • Conducting several First Detector Training workshops along the Wasatch Front (the greater Salt Lake City region) in Utah
  • Participating in farmer markets and other community events throughout the state
  • Creating and placing billboards that highlight the threats associated with invasive pests
  • Designing and placing permanent outdoor interpretive signs that focus on the pathways of invasive pest spread
  • Conducting a Junior Master Gardener training program, whereby youth will tie ribbons and informational tags on ash trees to emphasize the number of trees that could be killed by EAB.

Utah State University Extension staff Erin Brennan working an information booth in front of a custom Don’t Move Firewood banner at Thanksgiving Point Tulip Festival, April 2017.

These activities are funded by USU Extension and/or through a cooperative agreement with USDA-APHIS-PPQ.

After reading this blog, you might also be interested in:

Webinar: Don’t Move Firewood in the Western States on April 27

Join us for a FOCI webinar, Don’t Move Firewood in the Western States, on April 27th at 1 p.m. MDT (3pm Eastern). This webinar will focus on the products and services of greatest interest to western state and federal agency communication directors. This webinar will be open to all, and will be recorded and published to our YouTube channel after it is completed.

This webinar is now complete! View the full recording on the Don’t Move Firewood YouTube channel.

This webinar was offered in coordination with the Council of Western State Foresters and the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition. Many thanks to Sara Goodwin for initiating this shared educational opportunity! Our verified attendance during the webinar was 14 viewers from nine states (CA, CO, ID, ND, NM, OR, SD, UT, and WA).

Hope for Hawaiʻi’s Threatened Keystone Tree, ʻŌhiʻa

Guest blog by Corie Yanger, Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD) Educational Specialist, University of Hawaiʻi Extension

If you were to ask biologists and cultural practitioners in Hawaiʻi what the most important tree is in the state, “ʻōhiʻa” would likely be the answer. Not only does ʻōhiʻa (pronounced oh-hee-yah, or oh-hee-uh) cover roughly 1 million acres across the Hawaiian Islands, it is one of the first flowering plants to establish on fresh lava flows, and a keystone species of native wet forests. Consequently, one of the largest threats to the health of Hawaiʻi’s native forest ecosystems would be a pest or disease that kills ʻōhiʻa. In the last several years, that threat has surfaced – Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD).

ROD is a fungal disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of ʻōhiʻa trees and affected more than 50,000 acres of forest in Hawaiʻi. All confirmed cases of ROD-infected trees are located on the largest island, called Hawaiʻi Island or Big Island. Prior to infecting trees on Hawaiʻi, this disease was not known to the scientific community.

Before and after photos of affected ʻōhiʻa forest canopies, photo credits: J.B. Friday

The fungus enters a tree through a wound (such as a scraped area in the bark, or a cut limb), establishes within the sapwood (where the water-conducting cells are located), and eventually stops water flow within the tree. Months or even a year may pass before the tree shows outward symptoms. ROD causes green leaves of entire trees to turn yellow, then brown, in just a few days to several weeks. This rapid progression is how the disease got its name, Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death.

Researchers recently discovered that the disease symptoms people see are actually caused by two different introduced species of fungus in the genus Ceratocystis. The species cause slightly different symptoms, but the differences are too subtle to tell apart in the field. The species are genetically unique from any other fungal species ever found associated with ʻōhiʻa, and will soon receive their own new species names.

In Hawaiʻi, ʻōhiʻa gather the rain that recharges our island aquifers. In that same way, ʻōhiʻa have also gathered scientists, managers, educators, cultural practitioners, and many more groups together to combat Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death. A large partnership of non-governmental and governmental organizations formed a ROD Working Group in 2015 to coordinate research, management, and outreach. This working group has facilitated important advances in our understanding and tracking of ROD, through aerial surveys and field detection, mapping suspect ROD-affected trees and areas, and identifying the potential vectors that most likely spread the disease.

The ROD working group has also assisted the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture by providing science-based support for a quarantine rule restricting movement of ʻōhiʻa material and soil off of Hawaiʻi Island- including the movement of ʻōhiʻa firewood and posts. A statewide ROD prevention program reaches thousands of Hawaiʻi’s residents and visitors every day through printed media, radio, internet, community talks, school presentations, landowner visits, and informational tables.

Excerpted image from “5 Things You Can Do To Reduce the Spread of ROD rack card” 

Researchers do have hope despite the severity of the ROD situation. ʻŌhiʻa is a highly variable genus with eight named varieties of Metrosideros polymorpha and four other species of Metrosideros found on older Hawaiian Islands. With such high genetic diversity ROD researchers are testing the different varieties and species to see if disease resistance exists naturally. Another area of hope lies in observations of heavily impacted forests. Where ROD-related ʻōhiʻa tree loss has been the worst, meaning 75% or greater, researchers still see living, apparently healthy trees. Future studies will test cuttings from those healthy individuals to see if the trees are resistant to ROD.

For more information, visit: