Monitoring of spruce budworm shows that an outbreak is developing along the west coast of Newfoundland, including within Gros Morne National Park. This native forest insect feeds mainly on balsam fir and white spruce, and to a lesser extent on black spruce. This can lead to the death of trees after several consecutive years of severe defoliation and mature forests are generally harder hit than young ones.
Spruce budworm outbreaks are an important part of the natural forest cycle in Gros Morne National Park. Insect disturbance is responsible for opening up gaps in the canopy so new trees can start to grow. Maintaining an appropriate amount of natural disturbance creates a patchwork of young and old forest across the landscape, and this helps ensure that all wildlife species can meet their habitat needs.
The current outbreak could be more severe and potentially affect areas that would not have been impacted in the past because of climate change and human impacts on the landscape.
In 2020, Parks Canada received a request from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador – Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, to allow Gros Morne National Park to be included in an Early Intervention Budworm Control Program from 2021 onwards. There is concern that the national park could act as a source of spruce budworm that spreads to neighbouring lands.
After a review of relevant scientific evidence, policy and legislation as well as a public consultation process, Parks Canada decided that Gros Morne National Park (GMNP) will not be included in the Program. The feedback received during that process has been compiled into a What We Heard Report which can be found here: