Some time ago, I decided to establish a photo album of forest pathologists and forest entomologists.. that is people that do research or have some interst in diseases (pathology) or insect pests (entomologists) that affect the health of trees. If you are interested, you can see the initial posting of this album on the FABI web site (www.fabinet.up.ac.za) by going to HOSTED SITES and scrolling down to the album of forest pathologists and forest entomologists.
When we released the first draft (quite incomplete) of this web based album (we used a very neat and free web-based programme called jalbum -check it out), the response from tree health specialists around the world was quite interesting. And I think some of their views said a great deal about the field. Firstly, the fields of forest pathology and forest entomology overlap very markedly. There are many entomologists that work with pathogens or the interaction between pathogens and insects. Equally, many pathologists work on insects and their relationships with pathogens… I could go on and on. Many of us, I am certainly one, do not conider ourselves strictly belonging in one camp and have spent much of our careers working on both insects and pathogens of importance to the health of the world’s forests and plantations.
But let me get back to the issue of the album.. .when we released this to our community, I was very interested to see comments by colleagues that work on the effects of climate change and air pollution on tree health. They felt strongly that this album should incorporate them too. And so it should and will in the future! A keen example of the importance of climate change on the health of trees is found in the terrible losses that are being caused by the mountain pine beetle in the North America. There is little doubt that climate change has strongly driven the emergence of these dramatic deaths of trees. Allowing insect populations to build up above normal levels and to be able to kill large numbers of trees. And lets not forget the pathogens (in this case fungi) that are involved. This particular insect carries a suite of fungi but one in particular that lives in a symbiosis with the insect… whether it plays a role in killing the trees is another matter. One that some of us debate about very actively. That I might write about on another occasion.
Finally – the study of tree health includes many disciplines and most specifically entomologists, pathologists and climate change/ air pollution specialists. It is thus fitting that in the largest association of researchers working in the field of forestry is the International Union of Forestry Research Organisations (IUFRO).. visit www.iufro.org, forest diseases, forest insects and climate change/air pollution are dealt with in one of the eight major divisions.