Potential social and economic impacts of the hemlock woolly adelgid in southern New England
Adelges tsugae (Hemlock Woolly Adelgid; HWA) is a non-native forest insect that causes defoliation and mortality of hemlock in the eastern US. We quantified the extent to which people are potentially affected by the spread of HWA infestation where they live and where they recreate. We also considered how these impacts might change through time using data from 2007, 2009, and 2011. The study area included hemlock stands in a 7500-km2 region of central Connecticut and central Massachusetts. We used sample-plot data on live basal area and vigor of hemlock stands to interpolate hemlock health characteristics for all hemlock stands in the study area. We estimated a loss of property values in the region of approximately $24.6 million USD. This estimate was conservative because there were insufficient data to fully quantify the economic losses associated with the death of hemlock trees and the degradation of recreational opportunities. The spatial extent of HWA infestation suggests that both of the latter categories of economic losses are likely substantial. These data can be used to consider the economic efficacy of actions taken to ameliorate the effects of the HWA infestation.