Northumberland Forest chosen for MNR project

by Cecilia Nasmith

The Northumberland County Forest is one of three locations to be selected by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry this summer to assist with sampling of Nitidulid beetles (also known as sap beetles) in a project aimed at fighting an invasive fungus that causes Oak Wilt Disease.

Sampling is also being conducted in Essex Region and Sault Ste. Marie.

Though it has not yet impacted Canadian forests, this vascular disease affecting oak trees is currently prevalent in the United States. Research activities will provide the Ministry important insight into the interaction between sap beetles and oak trees that will help with the development of precautionary management guidelines for Oak Wilt in Canada.

“While this study is preventive in nature, it is important that we analyze any potential threat to our environment,” county forestry manager Todd Farrell stated in the press release.

“We were eager to contribute to this innovative research, which has the potential to positively impact the health of forests across Ontario.”

Oak Wilt is often spread by sap beetles, who transfer the Oak Wilt fungus from infected trees to healthy oak trees, causing substantial damage to forests.

Since April, county staff have been maintaining and monitoring three wind-oriented traps and three tree-wound traps in the county forest, from which they will collect samples of the beetle until the end of August. The samples from these traps will provide the Ministry with such key information as which beetle species are most common in certain areas of Ontario, which species visit fresh oak wounds, the life cycle of the beetles and their potential to transfer the disease.

Northumberland chief administrative officer Jennifer Moore stated that this collaboration with the ministry speaks to the mission of Northumberland County as a whole.

“We aim to be a best-practices leader in all of our endeavours, and this is especially relevant with respect to protecting and preserving the diverse and thriving ecosystems that make the Northumberland County Forest so unique,” Moore said.