Forest Health

Every step of establishing and maintaining a forest involves forest health

  • properly establishing appropriate, healthy trees on productive sites;
  • implementing cultural practices that favor vigorous growth of the best trees;
  • reducing losses due to pest organisms;
  • well planned, careful harvesting that protects standing trees from injury and maintains the integrity of riparian areas.

Our Tree and Forest Health Guide covers common insect and disease problems found in Virginia conifer and hardwood trees.

Southern Regional Extension Forestry (SREF) is pleased to announce the launch of our brand new Forest Health website. This new
multi-agency, multi-state resource hub provides information about native and invasive insects, plants, and fungi in southeastern U.S. forests. Visit the new Forest Health website...

Invasive Species

Every phase of forest development involves forest health, including the proper establishment of appropriate, healthy trees on productive sites; cultural practices that favor vigorous growth of the best trees; reduction of losses to pest organisms; and well planned, careful harvesting that protects standing trees from injury and maintains the integrity of riparian areas. Learn more about the Forest Health Program.

Invasive Insects

  • Emerald ash borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire, is an exotic beetle that was discovered in southeastern Michigan.
  • Defoliation in the United States due to the gypsy moth regularly approaches two million acres annually.
  • You can learn more about invasive insects such as the Emerald Ash Borer, Gypsy Moth and Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD).

Insect Identifcation and Information Sources

Walnut Thousand Canker Disease

Though not currently in Virginia, this article on Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD) was submitted for inclusion on our site by the author. Thousand Cankers Disease: A Red Alert for Walnut

Invasive Plant and Animal Species

Invasive species are non-native to Virginia that spread quickly and are expensive and difficult to get rid of. Complete information, including lists and fact sheets, is available from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's website.

GIS Data Layers

Gypsy Moth Defoliation and Fall Cankerworm data sets can be downloaded from this website.

Forest Health Program

Monitoring, Surveys, Analysis | Integrated Pest Management | Technical Assistance | Resource Assessment, GIS, Data Collection

Forest Health

Improvement of forest health is necessary to sustain an adequate supply of raw materials and protect natural water supplies while providing a high quality of life - all key elements of the Department's mission. Every phase of forest development involves forest health, including the proper establishment of appropriate, healthy trees on productive sites; cultural practices that favor vigorous growth of the best trees; reduction of losses to pest organisms; and well planned, careful harvesting that protects standing trees from injury and maintains the integrity of riparian areas.

Protection and improvement of forest health are provided for through monitoring, investigation and demonstration efforts that help landowners, consultants, contractors, loggers and industry foresters make informed forest management decisions. This approach is effective because most forest health problems are preventable or can be minimized through proper cultural practices. Examples include, matching tree species to site, pre-planting site exams to evaluate white pine blister rust hazard, and guidelines for avoiding or preventing regeneration weevil damage. Only occasionally do forest health problems require direct action or remedial treatment.

Training and demonstrations such as those relating to planting density and thinning regimes have been reliable methods for addressing many of the forest health problems that are preventable. As good forestry practices have been implemented on individual tracts throughout the Commonwealth, the average health, vigor and quality of Virginia's forests has gradually improved. The full benefits of good decisions can continue to accrue over several decades.

Seasonal surveys of forest health conditions and continual monitoring of water quality are necessary to detect incipient problems in time to reduce or prevent harmful impact. Detection of problems through formal and informal surveys is a cooperative and collaborative process involving both public and private sectors. Aerial surveys are conducted periodically with contract aircraft, and resulting information is corroborated and supplemented by formal and informal networks of ground observers involving all members of the forestry community in Virginia.

As much as practical, forest health activity components are combined with and incorporated into other Department activities to gain efficiencies.

Monitoring, Surveys, Analysis

Forest health monitoring is conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service through annual evaluations of 100 permanent forest plots established throughout the Commonwealth. This information is complemented by surveys of forest conditions not represented in the plot network. Additional surveys are conducted to evaluate the impact of major forest health problems, determine the efficacy of treatments or evaluate risks following detection in incipient problems. Landowners are notified of significant forest health problems, informed of potential impact and referred to consultants and contractors who can provide appropriate treatments. This process resulted in excellent timber salvage rates during the recent southern pine beetle outbreak.

Integrated Pest Management

Prevention, mitigation and suppression of pest organisms is an integral part of silviculture and forest management. Only occasionally is it necessary to treat pests directly. Since vigorous trees are able to resist many pests and are resilient when they do sustain pest depredations, the majority of pest problems can be avoided or minimized through cultural practices that maintain tree vigor. When this approach is inadequate, alternative management strategies are implemented; examples include: insecticide protections of pine seedlings against weevils on high hazard sites; preplanting inspections to evaluate and modify the threat of white pine blister rust on high hazard sites; stump treatment to prevent annosum root rot infections on high hazard sites, suppression salvage of southern pine beetle infested stands to prevent additional infestation and in marketing dead trees before they deteriorate. Most integrated pest management practices are implemented through information and education programs for practitioners and landowners. Direct treatments are usually provided by the private sector on a contractual basis.

Forest Health Technical Assistance

Since forest health is an integral part of forest protection and forest development activities, much of its implementation is accomplished in conjunction with these efforts. Some information, education and technical assistance programs focus exclusively on forest health issues and practices, but as much as possible forest health is incorporated into tree planting programs, management plans, cultural practices, pre-harvest plans and harvesting activities.

Forest health problem diagnosis and treatment recommendations are provided to consultants, contractors, loggers, industrial foresters and landowners directly on request, through the distribution of technical literature and through training and demonstrations. Training in the field and classroom is provided through formal advertised programs, and presentations at conferences and meetings. Demonstrations are established on State Forest properties or conducted at training sites.

Resource Assessment, GIS, Data Collection

The extent and complexity of forest resources in Virginia, the pattern of land ownership, the importance of private property rights and rapidly changing demographics make it difficult to maintain current information about forest conditions in the Commonwealth. Developing technology allows a considerable amount of resource assessment to be conducted remotely through the manipulation of satellite imagery, aerial photography, population data, cartographic information, historical records and personnel knowledge with Geographic Information Systems. The Department uses this technology to characterize resource conditions so it can direct its efforts effectively and efficiently. Constant changes in land use, land ownership, forest characteristics, market conditions and harvesting patterns, and continuing improvements in technology require continual data collection and refinements to this process. A critical element to the validity and usefulness of this approach to resource assessment is local knowledge of conditions. It is the experienced input of local field foresters that ensures the reliability of results.

Last modified: Tuesday, 30-Aug-2016 16:35:16 EDT