Assessing the cost of an invasive forest pathogen: A case study with oak wilt

Robert G. Haight, Frances R. Homans, Tetsuya Horie, Shefali V. Mehta, David J. Smith, Robert C. Venette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


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 km 2 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 km 2 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)506-517
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011


  • Economic impact assessment
  • Impact analysis
  • Pest invasion
  • Pest risk analysis

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