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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Ecology - Science Policy

Economic Impacts of Non-Native Forest Insects in the Continental United States
Published: Friday, September 09, 2011
Author: Juliann E. Aukema et al.

by Juliann E. Aukema, Brian Leung, Kent Kovacs, Corey Chivers, Kerry O. Britton, Jeffrey Englin, Susan J. Frankel, Robert G. Haight, Thomas P. Holmes, Andrew M. Liebhold, Deborah G. McCullough, Betsy Von Holle

Reliable estimates of the impacts and costs of biological invasions are critical to developing credible management, trade and regulatory policies. Worldwide, forests and urban trees provide important ecosystem services as well as economic and social benefits, but are threatened by non-native insects. More than 450 non-native forest insects are established in the United States but estimates of broad-scale economic impacts associated with these species are largely unavailable. We developed a novel modeling approach that maximizes the use of available data, accounts for multiple sources of uncertainty, and provides cost estimates for three major feeding guilds of non-native forest insects. For each guild, we calculated the economic damages for five cost categories and we estimated the probability of future introductions of damaging pests. We found that costs are largely borne by homeowners and municipal governments. Wood- and phloem-boring insects are anticipated to cause the largest economic impacts by annually inducing nearly $1.7 billion in local government expenditures and approximately $830 million in lost residential property values. Given observations of new species, there is a 32% chance that another highly destructive borer species will invade the U.S. in the next 10 years. Our damage estimates provide a crucial but previously missing component of cost-benefit analyses to evaluate policies and management options intended to reduce species introductions. The modeling approach we developed is highly flexible and could be similarly employed to estimate damages in other countries or natural resource sectors.
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