Environmental Management

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 506–517 | Cite as

Assessing the Cost of an Invasive Forest Pathogen: A Case Study with Oak Wilt

  • Robert G. HaightEmail author
  • Frances R. Homans
  • Tetsuya Horie
  • Shefali V. Mehta
  • David J. Smith
  • Robert C. Venette


Economic assessment of damage caused by invasive alien species provides useful information to consider when determining whether management programs should be established, modified, or discontinued. We estimate the baseline economic damage from an invasive alien pathogen, Ceratocystis fagacearum, a fungus that causes oak wilt, which is a significant disease of oaks (Quercus spp.) in the central United States. We focus on Anoka County, Minnesota, a 1,156 km2 mostly urban county in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan region. We develop a landscape-level model of oak wilt spread that accounts for underground and overland pathogen transmission. We predict the economic damage of tree mortality from oak wilt spread in the absence of management during the period 2007–2016. Our metric of economic damage is removal cost, which is one component of the total economic loss from tree mortality. We estimate that Anoka County has 5.92 million oak trees and 885 active oak wilt pockets covering 5.47 km2 in 2007. The likelihood that landowners remove infected oaks varies by land use and ranges from 86% on developed land to 57% on forest land. Over the next decade, depending on the rates of oak wilt pocket establishment and expansion, 76–266 thousand trees will be infected with discounted removal cost of $18–60 million. Although our predictions of removal costs are substantial, they are lower bounds on the total economic loss from tree mortality because we do not estimate economic losses from reduced services and increased hazards. Our predictions suggest that there are significant economic benefits, in terms of damage reduction, from preventing new pocket establishment or slowing the radial growth of existing pockets.


Pest risk analysis Impact analysis Pest invasion Economic impact assessment 



We are grateful to Susan Burks of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for providing the oak wilt data. We thank Juliann Aukema, Susan Frankel, Jenny Juzwik, Abby Walter, Lynne Westphal and two anonymous referees for comments and contributions to earlier drafts of the manuscript. This article was partially produced under a co-operative agreement (number 58-7000-6-0081) with the Economic Research Service's (USDA) PREISM invasive species management program. This research has also been supported in part by the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, and is a product of a Distributed Graduate Seminar on Forest Pests and Pathogens organized by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), which is funded by the National Science Foundation (Grant #DEB-0553768), the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the State of California. We are grateful to Juliann Aukema and Erica Fleishman for their coordination of this seminar. Authors are listed in alphabetical order. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the USDA.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA)  2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert G. Haight
    • 1
    Email author
  • Frances R. Homans
    • 2
  • Tetsuya Horie
    • 2
    • 3
  • Shefali V. Mehta
    • 2
  • David J. Smith
    • 2
  • Robert C. Venette
    • 4
  1. 1.U.S. Forest Service Northern Research StationSt. PaulUSA
  2. 2.Department of Applied EconomicsUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  3. 3.Center for the Environment and Trade ResearchSophia UniversityTokyoJapan
  4. 4.U.S. Forest Service Northern Research StationSt. PaulUSA

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