Feedbacks Between Invasive Pests, Forests and Climate

Principal Investigator(s): 

Thomas O’Halloran

Climate change and the invasion of exotic insects and disease are two of the most urgent problems facing environmental sciences today, as both have the potential to disrupt Earth's ecosystems on large scales. Researchers predict that these two problems may even interact, as climate change will likely exacerbate invasive species by creating host habitats more suitable to invasion by exotic pests. Although this problem is clearly interdisciplinary in nature, to date communication between climatologists and ecologists has been mostly one way. As an environmental scientist with expertise in forest-atmosphere interactions, I plan to facilitate collaboration among ecologists and atmospheric scientists towards developing fully coupled models of climate change and invasive species. I am interested in understanding and describing the interaction of physical and biological processes between pests, forests, and climate (e.g. the lower atmosphere) and the feedbacks between them that potentially contribute to controlling the distribution of pests. Example mechanisms of interest include: pest stresses on forest carbon dioxide and water vapor exchange, their interaction with precipitation frequency and soil moisture, and changes to the surface energy balance.