Forest Pathology

Forest pathology is the study of tree diseases. In this web site, we cover major diseases of trees, considering their causes (etiology), factors that affect their spread and intensification (epidemiology), ecological and economic impacts, and management.

Forest pathology is an awesome field because it allows you to get into everything from molecular biology to climate change, including mycology, soils, plant anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, meteorology, silviculture, forest ecology, and more.  If you like trees (and who doesn’t?), you’ll love forest pathology!

Many forest pathologists play the roles of forest physician and coroner.  Figuring out why trees are sick or die has all the intrigue of detective work — look for clues, gather evidence, make the creative insight!

Your brain on pathology
Cartoon courtesy of Ryan Hart, State University of New York Ranger School ’95.

If you are going to spend time learning forest pathology, you should have some reason to think it is important. Consider some of the following aspects:

  • The economic losses from tree diseases have been estimated to be higher than those from insects and fire combined.
  • The composition, structure and dynamics of plant communities are often determined in part by diseases.
  • Some diseases play a role in creating suitable habitats and nesting sites for wildlife.
  • Issues such as forest declines and forest health are inextricably tied to forest diseases.



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