What Threatens Forest Health?
Forest health can be threatened by biotic and/or abiotic stress agents. Stress agents cause a sustained disruption of the normal physiological or structural functioning of a tree. If a disruption is sustained over a long enough period of time, or if it is severe enough, a tree can be harmed or killed. It is important to distinguish between biotic and abiotic stress agents because it determines if the stress can spread and how it is managed. Biotic agents are living organisms including plants, animals, and microorganisms; whereas abiotic agents such as drought, air pollution, fire or herbicides are not living organisms. Biotic agents are infectious and transmissible, abiotic agents are not.
Insects and diseases claim more timber each year than any other forest menace. Some of this loss occurs as a natural part of the forest's natural life cycle, however overall forest health can decline if this natural cycle is thrown out of balance. We value and rely on forests for a wide variety of resources that can be threatened by forest pests, and therefore it is important to monitor forest health and intervene when those resources are at risk. Proper forest management, early detection, and protective measures can prevent or reduce the effects of insect and disease problems; while more intensive management and control options are available when required.
Humans are also a major threat to our forest resources. Today, more and more land is being taken out of forest production. Urban sprawl has claimed forested areas that never will be replaced. Some lands have been designated as wilderness areas or parks; and while they will continue to provide our state with many environmental and scenic benefits, most do not provide wood products. Many healthy and highly productive forests are cutover for a quick profit, then left idle. Many thousands of acres of highly valuable forests are lost each year to poor forest management. If we are to continue to enjoy all of the benefits of our forests, we must protect our present forest resources, estimate future need and intensify our efforts to increase forest production. It is to everyone's advantage that the forests be well managed for environmental, cultural, or economic reasons rather than left unproductive and inactive.