As the next outbreak approaches, there is an opportunity to draw from and build on scientific research that has occurred since the last outbreak. There is an urgent need and opportunity for new research by U.S. and Canadian researchers in the region to increase our understanding about SBW biology, monitoring, control, and management. The coming outbreak also provides the opportunity for longer-term research that will help primarily in informing those managing the next SBW outbreak, which is likely to occur around 2055.
In its final report, the SBW Task Force lists over 30 research questions for improving SBW monitoring, protection, forest management responses, and wildlife habitat management over the short- , mid- , and long-term. The following are a sampling of those questions.
• Can existing remote sensing technologies be used to improve mapping of high-risk stands?
• What are the best designs, tools, and techniques for SBW detection and monitoring surveys when implementing an early intervention strategy?
• What is the critical threshold below which SBW populations can be held in natural check, what mechanisms can maintain them at low levels, and how does the critical threshold vary with moth behavior and environmental conditions?
• What local environmental factors are responsible for initiating SBW outbreaks?
• How do SBW infestations change in space and time in Maine forests?
• What economic criteria should landowners use in deciding whether to protect or not protect stands that are vulnerable to the SBW?
• How well do new aerial application technologies deliver insecticide products to the local targets?
• What are the most effective options for protecting high-risk and high-value stands?
• How have harvesting practices since implementation of the Maine Forest Practices Act affected the vulnerability of stands to SBW?
• Does previous thinning (precommercial and commercial) of high-risk stands make them more or less vulnerable to damage by SBW, and if so, how long should thinning be terminated before the beginning of an outbreak?
• Are uniform plantations more or less susceptible than PCT/CT natural stands?
• How might climate change affect future SBW outbreak occurrence, severity, and spread, as well as the impact on forest stands?
• What proportion of state DWAs are at risk from the coming SBW outbreak and where are they located?
• What effect do various levels of SBW outbreak severity have on the temperatures, water quality, and nutrient inputs in streams with riparian zones that have high proportions of high-risk tree species?
• What effect will SBW damage to sub-alpine spruce-fir stands have on Bicknell’s thrush and other high-elevation bird species?
• How well do managed (sprayed and/or salvaged) late-successional stands maintain biodiversity relative to unmanaged late successional and old-growth stands?