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Forest Health Protection—Beech Bark Disease

Beech bark disease (BBD), a complex affecting American beech (Fagus grandifolia), includes both insect and fungal components. The classic concept of BBD, first articulated by Alex Shigo in 1972, remains the standard for today's forest pathologists. Alex described three arbitrary, temporal disease phases: the initial scale front phase, the second killing front phase, and the final aftermath forest phase. During the initial phase, the exotic scale insect disperses through the forest, causing scale-induced alterations to patches of bark.

The killing front phase begins 1 to 19 years after the arrival of the scale. Throughout this phase, the scale-modified bark is killed and colonized by species of Neonectria, rendering the dead tissues vulnerable to additional decaying fungi. The resulting beech snap and mortality levels may reach 50 percent in 5 years. The final aftermath forest phase results in an ecological accommodation to the disease, resulting in either a change in species composition or the death of re-emergent beech. The genetically identical stump sprouts and root suckers, which appear following the initial BBD deaths and/or salvage, die in a second wave of BBD. When there are few other stressors acting on the beech, the trees can live for many years with sub-lethal Neonectria infections and under conditions of multiple stressors such as drought, out of season frosts, and insect attacks the disease acts like a decline complex.

[Photo]:Heavy infestations of beech scale can cover tree boles with white wax.
[Photo]:Heavy infestations of beech scale can cover tree boles with white wax.
[Photo]:Mature beech scale insects (about 1 mm long). The wax was removed before the photograph was taken.
Heavy infestations of beech scale can cover tree boles with white wax. Heavy infestations of beech scale can cover tree boles with white wax. Mature beech scale insects (about 1 mm long). The wax was removed before the photograph was taken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On-Line Information:

 

Maps:

Beech Bark Disease Distribution in Northeastern Area States

Photos/Images of Beech Bark Disease:

Forestry Images

Research:

U.S. Forest Service Researchers Tackling Beech Bark Disease—News Bulletin

Website Contacts:

  • William Jones, Plant Pathologist, USDA Forest Service, Region 8
  • Dr. Mark Twery, Research Forester and Project Leader, USDA Forest Service, Northeast Forest Experiment Station, Burlington, VT
  • Dr. Andrew Liebhold, Research Scientist, Northeast Forest Experiment Station, Morgantown, WV

This Beech Bark Disease website is provided to you by a collaborative effort among Research Work Units NE-4557 (Disturbance, Ecology, and Management of Oak-Dominated Forests), NE-4454 (Integrating Social and Biophysical Science for Natural Resource Management), and State and Private Forestry, Forest Health Protection Units in Morgantown, WV, and Asheville, NC.

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Page Contact: Keith Tackett
July 11, 2011