New NSF grant awarded for ecosystem impacts of forest insects & pathogens

Starting in January 2017, the Matthes EcoLab will be funded by the NSF MacroSystems program for the project, “MSB-ECA: A generalized framework for modeling the impacts of forest insects and pathogens in the Earth System”.

Forest insects and pathogens are global agents of ecosystem disturbance. In the United States, tree stress and mortality from insects and pathogens creates billions of dollars in costs for U.S. municipalities and individual property owners. The interactions between insects and pathogens and other disturbances, such as climate change, are highly uncertain, but in many cases climate change is expected to increase insect and pathogen activity. This project will develop a framework to simulate and forecast the impacts of forest insects and pathogens through a generalized method that accurately captures the large diversity of their impacts. This framework will be used to simulate the potential impacts of insect and pathogen outbreaks in forests across the continental U.S. and to investigate the specific impacts of two invasive insects – gypsy moth and hemlock woolly adelgid – in the eastern U.S. A key benefit of this research is that it will improve the ability to simulate future impacts of insects and pathogens on forests in combination with other disturbances like drought, heat waves, and extreme rainfall events.

Matthes is excited to start collaborating with undergraduate researchers at Wellesley on this new trans-disciplinary project, which will use advanced computational methods to understand the impacts of these ecologically important disturbance feedbacks.