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The balsam woolly adelgid is one of the most destructive insects in North American forests.

In Washington state, it’s commonplace to hear about invasive species. After all, there are more than 450 nonnative, plant-eating insect species living in North American forests. While many of these insects are harmless, it’s difficult for scientists to predict which of these insects will cause harm.

Researchers from the UW’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences has developed a way to understand how nonnative insects might behave in new environments. The team’s model, described in a paper appearing Oct. 17 in the journal Ecology and Evolution, could help foresters predict which insect invasions will be problematic, and help managers decide where to allocate resources to avoid widespread tree death.

“What makes the invaders so special? That has been the million-dollar question, for decades,” Patrick Tobin, an associate professor at SEFS and one of the project leaders, told UW News. “This has the potential to profoundly change how we predict the impact of nonnative species and prioritize limited resources used to mitigate these impacts.”

Read the full story on UW News.