Forest Biology and Watershed Management

Southern Pine Beetle Hazard Rating

The southern pine beetle is the most destructive forest pest insect in the southeastern United States. Though population levels are cyclic, southern pine beetle activity is observed every year. Because most indices of susceptibility were designed twenty to thirty years ago during high population levels, researchers are questioning the applicability of these older systems in the face of low population levels and different landscape conditions. Researchers in the forest biology and watershed management group are re-testing existing hazard rating systems to determine the validity for use under current landscape conditions as well as to develop a new system for use during low pine beetle population levels. Because current beetle populations are low and expected to remain so for at least another year, only the most attractive stands should be attacked. This expectation makes a hazard rating system developed under these conditions more precise in identifying characteristics of high hazard stands. The researchers began collecting data in infested stands and control stands in 2006 and plan to complete the project by 2008. The new hazard rating system is under development and will be compared with current systems once the project is complete.