Exotic species risk modelling

The problem

The attention given to the presence of the Asian and brown spruce longhorned beetles (Anoplophora glabripennis and Tetropium fuscum) in North America has rekindled interest in the problem of exotic species in Canadian forests. Introduced insects and diseases have in fact been a scourge to Canadian forests for a long time. Some non-native species have caused tremendous economic damage (e.g., Chestnut blight, white pine blister rust, Dutch elm disease, zebra mussels, sea lampreys, purple loosestrife). It is undoubtedly the case that most people do not realize that many economically damaging insects and diseases are non-native. They have become a fact of life.

The Canadian Forest Service at the Great Lakes Forestry Centre in Sault Ste. Marie has been building a spatial modelling capacity to support improved exotic species' risk assessments. The framework makes use of Geographic Information System technology, new continental climate models, bioclimatic analysis of the likely distributions of species, forecasts of future climates and integration with the National Forest Inventory to help broadly assess economic and ecological risks. Our hope is that an improved capacity for spatial risk assessments will help policy, research, and monitoring efforts.