The Southern Pine Beetle
Chapter 1: Introduction
R. C. Thatcher – Program Manager, Expanded Southern Pine Beetle Research and Applications Program, USDA Forest Service, Pineville, La.
Because of favorable growing conditions in the South, this part of the country is expected to provide an increasing share of the world’s supply of wood and related resources. To do so will require more intensive management and more practical means for dealing with pest outbreaks.
The southern pine beetle (SPB) is a native pest whose existence has been documented since the 1750’s. Even though virgin forests were completely cut over by the 1920’s and 1930’s, the SPB continued to damage the new, second-growth forests.
In the last 100 years, numerous beetle outbreaks have occurred in the 13 Southeastern States (Price and Doggett 1978). At times, outbreaks have erupted simultaneously in several States, causing widespread, often spectacular tree mortality for periods of 2 or more years. Such losses have upset management plans, reduced potential yields from managed forests, and devastated the forest holdings of many small, private, nonindustrial landowners—the principal owners of commercial forest land in the South. In peak SPB years, the glut of beetle-killed timber has temporarily exceeded the capacity of local mills. Because many infestations are small and scattered, salvaging has been impractical and less than 50 percent of the total loss is recovered for use.
Interest in the southern pine beetle usually fluctuates with the occurrence of outbreaks. Research, generally limited to a few university and Forest Service locations, has not been coordinated among organizations and ranges from basic to applied studies. Between epidemics, there is little support for intensive research. And researchers do not adequately address many of the basic needs dealing with the detection, evaluation, suppression, and prevention of outbreaks. Rather than recognizing that the problem is basically a forest management problem, the symptoms of which are SPB outbreaks, the forestry community deals with beetle damage only after it has reached a crisis state.
When beetle population began to cause severe damage in 10 States in the early 1970’s, there was a great demand for new or improved ways to deal with the problem. With the approval and funding of the Expanded Southern Pine Beetle Research and Applications Program (ESPBRAP) in 1974, the Federal government made available almost $12 million for a 6-year accelerated research and development effort. The accelerated program filled many gaps in our knowledge about the SPB, such as determining the economic impact of infestations on multiple forest resources, developing sampling techniques and spot growth models, determining the characteristics of susceptible stands, and developing preventive and remedial controls. ESPBRAP was one of three regional, accelerated pest management R&D programs, in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Combined Forest Pest Program (CFPP) (Ketcham and Shea 1977).
The Expanded Program greatly augmented research, development, and applications efforts throughout the South. Besides bringing together all that was known about the beetle early in the Program, investigators and experts in many disciplines worked on a variety of related tasks. We have benefited from past research and have built a stronger base of knowledge that can be used to manage the SPB and its forest environment. Continuing work is needed to test results under a variety of forest conditions and management objectives and to package and disseminate results in ways useful to resource managers. Soon, we expect to be able to predict future outbreaks and initiate management practices to prevent or reduce potential losses.
The 93rd Congress, in its amendment to the budget dated June 11, 1974, stated that the CFPP will
Goals for the Southern Pine Beetle Program were as follows:
Subsequent deliberations narrowed the list of tasks to be accomplished. Setting up demonstration areas and studying biological control agents that might regulate beetle population numbers were two topics left for later investigation. However, if Program management decided that biological agents were critical to understanding SPB population dynamics or predicting population trends, then funds from the Program budget could be shifted to support work on selected biological agents or organisms (e.g., insect parasites, predators, and diseases). Ultimately these subjects did receive attention during the Program.
With specific tasks in mind, the principal line officers of the Southern Pine Beetle Program—the Program manager, a research coordinator and an applications coordinator—were recruited and a 5-year activity schedule was prepared. Management identified three major jobs:
Next, management developed a plan of work and budget for fiscal year 1975 and submitted it to the ad hoc CFPP Program Board for review and approval.
A solicitation package was developed by Program management and sent out to Forest Service units, State agricultural experiment stations, State forestry organizations, and universities in the Southern States. An eight-member ad hoc Technical Review Panel was formed to review proposals and recommend actions to Program management.
The research activities needed to achieve Program objectives fell into seven subject areas: social, economic, and environmental impacts; insect sampling and population dynamics; mortality and competition factors; site/stand characteristics of susceptible forests; stand manipulative practices; behavioral chemicals; and toxicants. For each area, management identified a working group consisting of a subject area coordinator and funded investigators working on related projects. Working groups interacted as needed to discuss approaches, share results, review progress, identify additional needs, and recommend needed changes to Program management. When new research and applications projects were suggested, the ad hoc Technical Review Panel reviewed them prior to acceptance and funding. In the final 2 years of the Program, when management had identified particular lines of work requiring special skills, specific proposals were solicited from selected individuals and organizations.
In deciding which proposals to fund, management put the projects on a fully competitive basis. Previous performance of proposed principal investigators, the facilities of the performing organization, and the relevance of proposals to achieving Program objectives were three paramount considerations. Management also considered the state of the art and the feasibility of accomplishing proposed work within the time frame and monetary constraints of the ESPBRAP.
After projects were funded, the Program staff interacted with working group leaders, investigators, organizational administrators, and business office personnel throughout the Program. This provided the opportunity for coordination, communication, and monitoring of results, and assured a continuing focus on Program and project objectives.
The activities schedule was revised several times during the Program to reflect attainment of goals earlier than anticipated, the realization that certain tasks could not be achieved on schedule, the identification of unproductive or duplicative work, the need to follow up on promising leads, and the adoption of improved approaches resulting from other research.
Accomplishment reports prepared by investigators were used in planning and managing the Southern Pine Beetle Program. These were submitted twice yearly—a detailed technical report in midwinter, a concise update in midsummer. Management also required plans of work and budget each year to support new or continuing work.
Except for a few cases where formal data-sharing agreements were necessary, scientists freely exchanged data with the understanding that suitable credit would be given for use of such information in publications. No centralized data management system was set up, although final copies of certain data sets were ultimately stored in Forest Service computers in Atlanta and Fort Collins for possible future use.
Two major responsibilities of the Southern Pine Beetle Program were to (1) make new technology available to users (technology transfer), and (2) identify additional research and application needs. To accomplish this, many of the procedures developed by the Program must be validated or tested under other outbreak and/or forest conditions. Likewise, many of the results of the Program must be "translated" from highly technical terms to more easily understood language, reduced to simplest terms, or tested under operational conditions involving the usual management constraints. In many cases, training aids, management guidelines, users’ guides, training sessions, and workshops and/or symposia are needed to communicate findings more effectively to users.
The responsibility for technology transfer and much of the followup in completing unfinished research and applications work is not vested solely in the Program. Research (Federal and State), State and Private Forestry, State forestry organizations, Cooperative Extension Service, and other professional organizations also have a role to play, as do the land managers themselves. To help accomplish these tasks, Program management prepared and released a report entitled "Communicating Research Results to Practitioners—A Technology Transfer Plan" (1978). The report recommended that technology transfer teams be formed for major subject areas. Each team was to be made up of representatives from research and various Federal, State, and industrial user organizations.
Working with the Southeastern Area of State and Private Forestry, ESPBRAP management organized a Southern Pine Beetle Technology Transfer Task Force to review research findings, to assess needs and priorities for passing these results on to users, and to recommend means for accomplishing technology transfer and evaluating its effectiveness. Their report (U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service 1979) recommended, among other things, that the technology transfer teams continue work in eight applications areas: (1) silvicultural practices and stand-rating systems, (2) guidelines for utilizing beetle-killed timber, (3) socioeconomic guidelines, (4) new insecticides and improved spray systems, (5) sampling methods and predictive models, (6) aerial survey and navigation systems, (7) behavioral chemicals, and (8) integrated management strategies. Each team was asked to review research in its respective area, to identify additional research and/or applications studies needed to facilitate implementation, to identify opportunities for demonstrations and implementations of research findings, and to document recommended followup actions. A special report, "Southern Pine Beetle Research, Applications, and Implementation Activities for the Southern Forest Community" (Belanger et al. 1979a), summarized the activities needed to set the stage for completing work and implementing ESPBRAP results.
Program management has also met with Forest Service research representatives from the Washington Office and the Southeastern and Southern Forest Experiment Stations to identify research needs. A number of basic and applied research tasks constitute opportunities for followup which will lead to the filling of important voids or capitalizing on earlier research findings. If resources are available, the southern Federal research community has indicated that they will consider this "unfinished business," either through in-house or extramural efforts during the next 5 years.
In addition to technical and semipopular articles in refereed journals, the Program put out a newsletter ("Southern Pine Beetle News"), a series of How-To handbooks, technical bulletins, symposium proceedings, a number of southern pine beetle fact sheet Technology Updates (through the Southeastern Area), and a variety of feature articles and special reports. State and Private Forestry, Extension, and State forestry organizations also released some of the Program’s results in other forms suited to the needs of their clientele. These and other activities will continue for several years to assure that the technology from the Southern Pine Beetle Program is fully utilized.
The compendium is intended to accomplish three purposes: first, to present a synthesis of the knowledge on the southern pine beetle with emphasis on the accomplishments of the Expanded Southern Pine Beetle Program; second, to present to all users a summary of what we know about the beetle problem and how to deal with it; and third, to define continuing research and development needs for the future.
The chapters prepared, for the most part, by single authors and reviewed by people knowledgeable in the respective fields. The early chapters are concerned with basic scientific information needed to understand and formulate forest or integrated pest management approaches. Later chapters deal with management practices and materials—the alternative control tactics. These subjects are followed by a discussion of how integrated pest management strategies are being developed for the SPB. Finally, we present the research and development needs identified by the technology transfer teams. Here, we recognize that continuing research and development and the implementation of Program findings will rest on the adequacy of future funding in the USDA Forest Service, State Agricultural Experiment Stations, State forestry commissions, and universities. Regulation of southern pine beetle outbreaks in the future will be possible only if a continuous program of monitoring, research, applications, and implementation is undertaken.
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Last updated on Wednesday, August 09, 2006 at 02:04 PM
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