CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon Sea Grant researchers have found that a focused education and outreach campaign targeted at something most people can easily relate to – campfires and the firewood burned in campgrounds – contributes to behavioral changes to slow the spread of invasive species.
The study, the first of its kind in the U.S., was part of a two-year campaign led by invasive species councils in Oregon, Idaho and Washington to encourage people not to transport firewood.
Many insects and diseases that threaten natural resources in the Pacific Northwest can lie dormant, on or in firewood for up to two years, and researchers discovered that some firewood sold or brought to Oregon originated from as far away as the East Coast of the U.S., New Zealand and Russia.
Before the study started, entomologists associated with the project found 20 specimens of live invasive species in just six bundles of firewood purchased at grocery stores.
The study assessed the effectiveness of the educational campaign, as well as how much campers know about firewood as a vector of invasive species, the sources of firewood transported to campgrounds, and how campers can play a role in slowing the spread of invasive species.
“We wanted something that would clearly represent the problem, and we felt that firewood is so iconic that using it as an educational tool would help people better understand that humans are vectors of invasive species,” said Sam Chan, Sea Grant’s invasive species and watershed health specialist at Oregon State University. “Campers transporting firewood across borders and ecosystems can unknowingly spread invasive species.”