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#Science : Invasive Pests Damage US Forests

All along the West Coast through the Rocky Mountains, bark beetles have affected tens of millions of acres of forest. While bark beetles are native to U.S. forests and play important ecological roles, they can cause extensive tree mortality and negative economic and social impacts. Climate change has led to an increase in these damaging effects, and the Forest Service is working to better understand bark beetle ecology and to improve forest management.


Something is making a lot of American forests sick. But scientists are fighting back with genetics. VOA's Kevin Enochs reports on the invasive illnesses that are putting U.S. green space at risk.


What is an invasive species?

Invasive species(link is external) have two main characteristics: they are non-native to the ecosystem that they are occupying, and their existence in that ecosystem causes or is likely to cause harm to the economy, environment, or human health. If left unchecked, invasive species can threaten native species, ecosystem services, recreation, and property values. Invasive species may be plants, animals, or microorganisms. 

By the numbers

  • 120 billion – dollars in damages caused by invasive species in the U.S.
  • 81 million – acres of public and private lands at risk from insects and disease
  • 42 – percent of threatened or endangered species expected to be displaced by invasive species

What is the Forest Service doing to help?

The Forest Service works with partners at all levels to respond to and manage pests that threaten the 731 million acres of forests in the United States. The Forest Service directly manages 193 million acres of forests and grasslands in the National Forest System, provides technical assistance to landowners and resource managers through State and Private Forestry, and develops new tools and management practices through Research and Development. The 2013 National Strategic Framework for Invasive Species Management guides these efforts.

What can I do?

At home:

  • Avoid planting invasive ornamental plants on your property.
  • Learn how to control invasive plants around your property and what tools to use to properly remove them.
  • Report invasive plant infestations to your local land management agency.
  • Do not dump aquariums or houseplants in the wild or in water, such as lakes, streams, rivers, or ponds.
  • Contact your state or county Department of Natural Resources to learn about invasive species in your state. 

When traveling:

  • Make sure to clean your clothes, boat, animals, and gear off after recreating to prevent the spread of invasive species to other areas.
  • Do not collect invasive plants, their seeds, or reproductive bodies.
  • Do not carry firewood long distances. Burn it where you buy it! 

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