Narrator: Each year, insect pests devastate vast regions of Canada’s forests.
Recent figures reveal that the country’s forests are being damaged at the rate of 400,000 hectares annually.
That’s more than two-thirds the size of Prince Edward Island.
It’s almost half of the 930,000 hectares that are harvested annually by the forest industry.
These pests are also reducing the quality of the harvest that remains.
Concern over these ecological and economic costs is mounting, particularly as rising international trade brings more lumber and wood products, as well as unwanted alien insect pests, which are becoming established in Canadian forests.
Natural Resources Canada is taking an aggressive, proactive stance in fighting these insect pests, with a new research facility at its Great Lakes Forestry Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Called the Insect Production and Quarantine Laboratories, the new facility is the only one of its kind in Canada.
This state-of-the-art addition is ready to play a key role in maintaining Canada’s commitment to ensuring healthy and sustainable forest ecosystems.
The objective of the new lab is, on the surface, a simple one: to combat both alien and domestic insect pests that threaten Canada’s forests.
As the lab’s John Dedes explains, the research challenges underpinning that goal are decidedly complex.
John Dedes: As far as invasive insects are concerned when they enter an ecosystem that they don’t belong in, that’s when we have some troubles.
There are no predators or things that are accustomed to attacking those particular insects and so they may compete for the same resources that the indigenous insects are trying to get to.
And until predators start to cross over and realize that they are also a food source, it could have some big implications on the ecosystem itself.
Narrator: Dedes and the new lab’s research team are taking advantage of the lab’s advanced technologies and systems to establish colonies of invasive insects, which will be used by other researchers to develop environmentally friendly pest control strategies.
John Dedes: So we provide researchers the insects to develop those types of control strategies either to conduct bioassays on insects to see if a certain product works well, or if adult moths that we grow are attracted to a certain pheromones trap, that sort of thing.
Narrator: Completed in mid-2011, the new 1600 sq-metre facility houses four research areas, or “zones.”
As its name suggests, the facility will focus on the production and quarantine of several different insect species in labs equipped with highly specialized control systems and clean-room technology.
Peter Ebling, Manager of Insect Production Services, describes the lab’s distinctive set-up.
Peter Ebling: Our facility is divided into 4 different zones.
We have our domestic production zone. This is, as the name implies, an area where we produce domestic forest insects.
We have our quarantine facility. This is a level 2 quarantine facility for working and for rearing invasive alien insects not native to Canada.
Now we also have what I call a variable utilisation zone. This is an area that can be used for both domestic or quarantine research activities.
Also located here in the facility is the Invasive Species Centre which is a non profit entity funded by the Ontario ministry of Natural Resources.
Sanitation is a key component of our daily activities in both our domestic and our quarantine zones.
We’re using things like epoxy coatings on our walls and ceilings epoxy, trial donny epoxy flooring with cove corners.
All these types of things allow us to wash down our facilities on a regular basis with our cleaning agents.
It eliminates grooves and crevices where dirt could accumulate.
Over the coming years, we envision the need for infrastructure for quarantine space to increase and our facility has been designed such that we can take spaces that were formerly dedicated to domestic rearingand convert them to invasive rearing or quarantine research areas.
We can do this simply by closing and alarming some doors, opening other doors and changing our air pressurisation from positive pressure which is required in the domestic species zone to negative pressure which is required in the quarantine facility.
Narrator: The new facility will also give researchers from Natural Resources Canada and key partners, the space to maintain colonies of both domestic and alien invasive pest species.
These colonies will, of course, be used to supply on-site researchers with research subjects.
Peter Ebling: Now the insects that we produce are in high demand because they are of very high quality because of the quality management systems that we have in place because of the quality control testing that we do.
We do a considerable amount of quality control testing on every cohort of insects that we produce as well as on the artificial diets that we produce and support for those insects.
John Dedes: We produce artificial diets here to maintain our own insect colonies but we also distribute these artificial diets to other federal government forestry research centres, universities, private research centres across Canada and the U.S.
We’re starting to distribute to Europe as well.
Normally, if clients order insects, they also order the diet that accommodates that insect as well.
Narrator: Achieving the lab’s goals – to suppress established species, to fight off new arrivals before they take hold, and to develop innovative solutions to counter the damage both cause -- is vital to safeguarding the health of Canada’s forests.
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