the gypsy moth and the Asian longhorn beetle.
Damage from these pests can range from cosmetic inconvenience to widespread destruction of entire forest communities. The damage is exacerbated when insects or diseases attack a forest already stressed from drought or site disturbance.
Unfavorable weather also becomes a challenge to forest health. In the past five years, Missouri has experienced incredible extremes in weather patterns and events. Three years of extreme drought were followed by two of the wettest years on record.
Additionally, many of our forests recently suffered widespread damage from severe freezing rain, and on May 8, 2009, wind leveled 113,000 acres of Ozark forest.
Although there is not much we can do to stop the weather, we spend a lot of time dealing with its aftermath. Strategies need to be developed to ensure that Missouri’s forest resources are as resilient to various weather conditions and events as possible, and that Missouri’s agencies and people are well prepared and available to respond quickly to disasters when they occur.
Community Forestry Issues
Urban street tree inventories were conducted by the Conservation Department in 44 Missouri towns in 1989 and 1999. A comparison of results shows significant changes in Missouri’s community forests.
Communities now have more street trees. In 1989, there were 46.2 trees per mile, and in 1999 there were 62.9 trees per mile. However, average tree condition declined during this period. In 1989, 66 percent of community trees were good or excellent, compared to only 24 percent in 1999. This underscores the need to maintain trees throughout their life and then remove them as their condition deteriorates.
The inventory also shows that Missouri’s community forests are becoming more diverse. The top six tree species constituted 53 percent of those surveyed in 1989, as compared to 37 percent found in 1999. Having a diversity of tree species helps reduce the vulnerability of a community forest to devastation from such threats as emerald ash borer and Dutch elm disease.
In 1999, 12 percent of all community trees were topped, making them vulnerable to pests and diseases and shortening their life spans. Topping also weakens trees, turning them into community hazards. Despite extensive efforts of the Missouri Community Forestry Council to put an end to this practice, tree topping continues to be a major community tree problem today.
Because of the vast economic, social and environmental benefits provided by community trees and forests, it is helpful to think of them as a critical component of a city’s green infrastructure.
Like all other types of infrastructure, however, trees and forests need investment in order to maintain and sustain their benefits into the future.