The southern expansion of the ongoing outbreak of eastern spruce budworm is without question a leading threat to Maine's forest economy. An outbreak of only moderate intensity, which could span more than 10 years and cause the mortality of millions of cords of fir and spruce trees, could cause an annual loss of nearly $400,000,000 and 600 jobs from the forest products sector (link to SBW Task force page).
In principle, timber loss to defoliation can be mitigated by early harvesting of vulnerable trees, application of insecticides, or salvage logging of infested trees. In practice, mitigation incurs economic, ecological, and social costs. Reducing the costs and enhancing the benefits of management decisions will require knowledge of both timber and non-timber resources, and their vulnerabilities.
Our intent is to provide decision support to Maine’s diverse landscape of forest stakeholders, by designing a geospatial tool that harnesses state-of-the-art machine leaning methods for mapping forest conditions, developed at the University of Maine, and distills the complexity of regional forest conditions down to the key information relevant to forest management/conservation planning in advance of the oncoming outbreak.
The Maine ForEST (Forest Ecosystem Status and Trends) App is the culmination of three years of research and software development that was generously supported by the University of Maine Research Reinvestment Fund, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, and the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests.