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Simulating the dispersal of hemlock woolly adelgid in the temperate forest understory

Authors

  • Jenna L. Turner,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881, USA
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  • Matthew C. Fitzpatrick,

    Corresponding author
    1. Appalachian Lab, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Frostburg, MD 21532, USA
      Correspondence: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Appalachian Lab, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, 301 Braddock Road, Frostburg, MD 21532, USA. E-mail: mfitzpatrick@umces.edu
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  • Evan L. Preisser

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881, USA
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Correspondence: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Appalachian Lab, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, 301 Braddock Road, Frostburg, MD 21532, USA. E-mail: mfitzpatrick@umces.edu

Abstract

The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), Adelges tsugae Annand (Hemiptera: Adelgidae), has spread rapidly across the eastern USA since its introduction from Japan 60 years ago, causing widespread mortality of both eastern hemlock [Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carrière] and Carolina hemlock [Tsuga caroliniana Engelm. (Pinaceae)]. Although HWA spread patterns have been repeatedly analyzed at regional scales, comparatively little is known about its dispersal potential within and between hemlock stands. As the small size and clonal nature of HWA make it nearly impossible to identify the source populations of dispersing individuals, we simulated intra-stand HWA movement in the field by monitoring the movement of clumps of fluorescent powder that are slightly larger than HWA, but much easier to detect in the forest understory. Using three hemlock trees with three colors of fluorescent powder as source populations, we detected dispersal events at the farthest distances within our trapping array (400 m). However, more than 90% of dispersal events were <25 m. Dispersal patterns were similar from all three source trees and the distribution of dispersal distances in all cases could be described by lognormal probability density functions with mean dispersal distance of 12–14 m, suggesting that dispersal was relatively independent of location of source trees. In general, we documented tens of thousands of passive dispersal events in the forest understory despite the presence of a dense forest canopy. Thus, even under relatively light-wind conditions, particles of similar dimensions to HWA are capable of intra-stand movement, suggesting that a large population of HWA could rapidly infest other trees within several hundred meter radius, or beyond.

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