2013 Forest Health Highlights
Arkansas's forests cover 19 million acres, more than 56% percent of the state's land area. The majority of the state's forested land, some 12.5 million acres, is in non-industrial private ownership, while approximately 2.5 million acres is national forest.
Arkansas's forests are prized for their scenic beauty, supporting tourism and outdoor recreation, and providing wildlife habitat from the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains to the Mississippi River. Major forest types in the state include oak-hickory, loblolly-shortleaf pine, oak-pine, and oak-gum-cypress.
Forest Health Monitoring (FHM) activities are cooperative efforts between the USDA Forest Service and the Arkansas Forestry Commission. FHM includes periodic measurement of fixed plots as well as regular aerial and ground surveys to detect forest damage.
Southern Pine Beetle (SPB)
This is Arkansas’s most significant forest insect pest. However, in 2013 no SPB activity was reported, a trend that has lasted for more than 16 years. The sudden upsurge of SPB in Mississippi seems to have subsided almost as quickly. One interesting observation was that of almost 1,000 spots on the Homochitta National Forest, not one was in a stand that had been thinned. The Arkansas Forestry Commission expanded the south-wide pheromone trapping to southeast Arkansas and conducted early summer aerial surveys over approximately six million acres in 2013.
SPB Prevention and Restoration Program (SPB PRP)
The AFC continues to offer cost-share incentives to landowners for thinning and restoration work as part of this effort. This program is eagerly sought and well received by landowners. The state is also making special effort to reach out to minority and underserved landowners. The 2013 SPB PRP Program was entirely focused on the thinning of stands with basal area of 120 or above. In addition to a landowner incentive, a logger incentive will be offered to thin small stands between 10-20 acres.
Ips Beetles and Black Turpentine Beetles
These are often attracted to trees stressed by drought or damaged during harvest operations. Statewide, populations of these beetles were above normal late in the year due to a dry fall. Some Ips spots were plotted as SPB spots in aerial surveys, but ground checks correctly identified them as Ips. Thinning of pine stands should be conducted to minimize damage to residual trees.
Oak Decline and Red Oak Borer(ROB)
Isolated pockets of ROB still crop up, but nothing on the scale of 99-04. Conditions favorable for the development of future oak decline events persist over thousands of acres. Episodic drought, advanced age, overstocked stands and poor site quality of many of the state’s oak forests create a serious and persistent problem. Hypoxylon Canker killed many red oaks in late 2013 due to drought stress.
Early Oak Defoliation
Sudden and extreme late summer and early fall drought resulted in many calls concerning white and post oaks. Most trees will resume growth in the spring. See Hypoxylon note above.
Eastern Tent Caterpillar
Infestations were high in most areas. Actual damage from this common defoliator was negligible.
This common, but noticeable pest was normal in most areas of Arkansas this year.
Variable Oak Leaf Caterpillar
Summer populations peaked in many areas of north and central parts of the state. The expected fall generation didn’t develop.
Trapping is used for early detection of gypsy moth introduced to the state. One moth was caught in 2013 in Maumelle. However, the sample was lost in New Orleans. The Plant Board is treating it as a positive catch and will conduct delimiting trapping for two years in the area.
Chinese Privet is but one of a number of non-native, invasive insect and plants causing problems for foresters and land managers in Arkansas. Privet is widely distributed in all areas of the state. Kudzu continues to be a serious pest in many areas.
Recently, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture/Arkansas State Plant Board has confirmed that the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an invasive beetle from Asia that attacks and kills ash trees, has been confirmed in three south Arkansas counties.
Other species of interest are Asian Long Horned Beetle (ALB), Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD) of Black Walnut, Sirex wood wasp and Cogon grass. At this time none of the other pests mentioned have been found in the state, though a very close relative of Cogon grass is often sold in the nursery trade.
Cooperative programs have addressed some high-value areas such as designated natural areas, forested urban parks and forest regeneration sites. The Arkansas Department of Natural Heritage completed an invasive species project to remove and reduce invasive species from Cove Creek, one of their exemplary natural areas.
The Arkansas Forestry Commission cooperated in the “Don’t Move Firewood Program,” a Region 8 project intended to educate the public on the dangers of moving firewood and related pests from area to area. Many invasive pests can be moved long distances in a matter of days via firewood.
To view a full list of non-native, invasive plants visit the Southern Research Station's Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests.
Forest Health Links