Researcher swabbing toad, USGS photoWhite pine blister rust, USFS photoBeetle pitch tube, NPS photo

Pests and pathogens have always played a vital role in ecosystems and ecological succession. For example, weakened trees in a forest are often most susceptible to attack, and are consequently the first to die, preparing a decaying forest for the next forest fire. This allows a new forest to regenerate with an increased flush of nutrients and provides a diverse habitat for wildlife. However, pests or pathogens that are not native to an ecosystem (such as white pine blister rust or tussock moths) can wreak undue havoc on a forest community due to lack of local processes that keep the species in check. Additionally, many native pests and pathogens are responding positively to our warming climate, impacting forests for longer cycles than they had historically.

Pathogens can affect wildlife species as well. Chytrid fungus is an amphibian skin disease that has been linked to global declines in amphibian populations. The disease has been documented in Glacier National Park as well as the Flathead and Waterton drainages.

Early detection through ongoing monitoring and research allows resource managers the best opportunity to quickly respond to threats from pests or pathogens.