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i-Tree software to Help Communities Fight Invasive Species

The Forest Service’s i-Tree Pest Detection software, due to be released next week, is going to help urban foresters curb the spread of invasive species and the dead trees left in their wake.

Cities and communities are frequently the first site of introduction for exotic pests, where they remain undetected until populations are well established and have had harmful impacts on the health of host trees. Pests, such as Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer, are introduced into the U.S. through international shipments and packaging materials. Ports and transportation centers are areas of interest for urban foresters concerned with maintaining healthy forests.

Many communities routinely complete and update tree inventories, but often overlook pest infestations because pest detection tools are not part of the inventory process. There are also no processes in place for aggregating pest inventory data into a standardized form, which would allow communities to analyze pest trends that are otherwise difficult to detect across geographic or political boundaries.

The goal of i-Tree’s Pest Detection utility is to develop, disseminate, implement, and establish an accepted, modern protocol for long-term national urban pest detection and monitoring. Communities conduct tree inventories as part of ongoing efforts to better understand the structure, function and management needs of their urban forests. Developed to meet these needs, i-Tree, a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the U.S. Forest Service, was created to develop, disseminate, support and refine urban forest analysis tools.

The Pest Detection module in i-Tree Streets provides a portable, accessible, and standardized method to observe a tree for possible insect or disease problems. Future I-PED developments will include a national database repository that will enable pest specialists to access regional pest data to query for pest detection anomalies and trends at multiple scales. In addition, extensive user support through online resources, integration with established pest identification and reporting networks, and training are planned enhancements.

The use of iTree’s Pest Detection utility will increase and broaden efforts to detect exotic pests and diseases, like 1000 canker disease of walnut. In turn, this information will improve opportunities to control these pests and pathogens while infestations are still manageable and hopefully reduce costs for long-term community forest management. This standardized method for integrating pest detection with urban forest management is a much needed tool that can be integrated with other innovative, technologically advanced tree inventory and assessment tools.

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