Influence of hemlock woolly adelgid on forest dynamics & the terrestrial carbon cycle

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA; Adelges tsugae Annand) is an introduced insect pest that threatens to decimate eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carriere) populations. In this study, we used the Ecosystem Demography model (ED) in conjunction with a stochastic model of HWA spread to predict the impact of HWA infestation on the current and future forest composition, structure and carbon dynamics in the eastern United States. The spread model predicted that on average the hemlock stands south and east of the great lakes would be infested by 2015, with southern Michigan reached by 2020, and northeastern Minnesota by 2030. For the period 2000-2040, the ecosystem model predicted an average reduction of 0.011 Pg C y-1 (Pg C = 1015 grams Carbon), an 8% decrease, in the uptake of carbon from eastern US forests due to HWA-caused mortality, followed by an increased uptake of 0.015 Pg C y-1 (a 12% increase) in the period 2040-2100, as the area recovers from the loss of hemlock. Overall, we conclude that, while locally severe, HWA infestation is unlikely to have a significant impact on the regional patterns of carbon fluxes, given that eastern hemlock represents a limited fraction of the standing biomass of eastern forests, and that it has relatively low productivity compared with the tree species that are likely to replace it.

You can read more about HWA in the paper "Predicting the impact of hemlock woolly adelgid on carbon dynamics of Eastern U.S. Forests" by Albani et al published in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 2010, here.

Researchers at Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts, are involved in an ongoing examination of the effects of chronic hemlock woolly adelgid in southern New England. You can find information on the project here.