Researchers seek to safeguard oak population by raising awareness of possible invasive species
Brainerd area has 168,185 acres of oak on private land
University of Minnesota researchers are working to protect Minnesota’s oak population by alerting private landowners about the next wave of potential invasive species.
“Minnesota’s oak trees are at risk of great potential damage inflicted by invasive species such as the gypsy moth and oak splendor beetle,” said David Andow, professor of entomology in the university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. “Neither of these damaging oak pests are currently in the state, but it is vitally important that we stay one step ahead, especially in central Minnesota.”
Containing and eradicating invasive species that destroy natural resources requires early detection, and private landowners play a critical role in this effort. Government agencies are encouraged to manage natural resources at the landscape level; cooperation from landowners is needed to properly monitor the more than 60 percent of Minnesota land that is privately owned.
The Brainerd area has 168,185 acres of oak on private land.
The gypsy moth, which can cause timber losses between $300 and $1,700 per acre, has already established populations in western Wisconsin. The oak splendor beetle, a cousin of the emerald ash borer, is of even greater concern according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture even though it has not yet been found in the United States.
“We have seen the damage wrought by oak pests in neighboring states and witnessed firsthand the effects of emerald ash borer in Minnesota,” said Andow. “Our study is proactively seeking the volunteer assistance of oak woodland owners to monitor for these invasive species and others before they cause serious harm to oak trees on property owners’ land.”
Through a study funded by the National Science Foundation, Andow and colleagues aim to reduce cost and improve effectiveness of detecting damaging invasive insect pests of oak trees by educating and involving private landowners to help protect a treasured part of Minnesota’s landscape.
Other U of M researchers involved are Terry Hurley, professor of applied economics, and Eugene Borgida, professor of psychology and law in the College of Liberal Arts and the Law School. The University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture are also collaborating on the study.