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USDA-APHIS Uses GIS Mapping in Emerald Ash Borer Response
By Doug Bopp, Geographer, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Plant Health & Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), Emerald Ash Borer Program
The emerald ash borer (EAB) is an exotic beetle that is responsible for the destruction of millions of ash trees in North America. Since its initial identification in southeast Michigan in the summer of 2002, EAB has since been detected in a total of fifteen States and two Canadian provinces. Currently its presence has been confirmed in the Minnesota counties of Ramsey (May 2009), Hennepin (February 2010) and Houston (May 2010).
From the beginning of the EAB Response effort, GIS has proven to be invaluable in its ability to convey spatial data and concepts into effective tools supporting the effort to contain the pest. A simple map depicting EAB-positive locations has great value by itself. Foremost, the general public and response staff want to see where the pest is currently detected. One of most powerful features of a GIS is the ability to widen the context of a map with the addition of multiple layers. For instance, adding a simple layer of quarantine locations to the aforementioned map significantly expands the number of specialized users that rely on it to carry out critical functions. The general public can now use this map to track government regulatory response visually, rather than relying on a written list of defined quarantine areas. Regulatory personnel can use the map to better manage issues of regulated materials and their movement. The map greatly enhances the ability to plan detection surveys for the presence of EAB. Outreach and public awareness campaigns are better enabled with the ability to visualize the locations of precious public resources that could be affected.
The program map from 2006 shown here originated when a State of Ohio recreation reservations manager provided a list of camper reservations for a three month period. The list included two fields queried from the reservations database: the field identifying the requested campground to reserve and that of the requestor’s home address ZIP code. Through tools only enabled by a GIS, the map user is able to conceptually grasp where the campers are originating from and in what numbers, and to determine where the most popular park destinations are located and their rank in popularity. And with the addition of a major roads layer providing additional context, the user has the means to understand one of the potential pathways of spreading infested materials, in this case, likely firewood movement. Regulatory agencies, for example, use a map such as this to target areas for roadside regulatory checks. Similar maps indicate where to concentrate targeted surveys, such as detection surveys for EAB and customer surveys about awareness, as well as outreach materials. The added layer of the originating camper locations proved to be exceptionally useful for multiple users.
While there are countless more examples of maps generated and utilized by the EAB response program, perhaps the greatest achievement that GIS has accomplished is the noticeable growth in the degree of spatial awareness by staff, and how embracing a spatial approach can be a powerful tool that enhances everyday work functions. It isn’t a stretch to say that GIS has opened up many new perspectives for those who never would have considered such a thing!
For more information about emerald ash borer response efforts:
Editor’s Note: For two related articles on EAB in Minnesota, see: