Ash tree-killing beetle threatens North American forests

05Dec10

Earlier this year, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency took action to contain the spread of the emerald ash borer (agrilus planipennis) in the province of Ontario and beyond by prohibiting the movement of firewood and ash-tree products such as nursery stock, logs, branches and wood chips from the Ottawa and Gatineau areas to any other surrounding regions.

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INFOGRAPHIC: THE MONTREAL ICE STORM OF 1998

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The highly destructive, wood-boring beetle that feeds under the bark of ash trees is not native to Canada — it is believed to have originated in Asia. It was discovered in Ottawa in 2008 within the St. Laurent Blvd. and Highway 417 area.

It kills a tree by feeding on the tree’s nutrients in an S-shaped pattern under the bark. This cuts off the delivery of water and nutrients to other parts of the tree. Just a few emerald ash borers feeding in one tree can wreak major havoc on the tree’s ability to get nourishment — and effectively kill it. The process could take place as fast as one year.

Environmental hazard, economic risk

Because it has killed millions of ash trees in Ontario and many parts of the United States — and threatens to do more major damage if it continues to spread — the emerald ash borer poses very real economic and environmental danger to forested areas as well as large, densely-populated urban centers across Canada and the U.S.

First discovered in North America in 2002 — in Michigan — the tree-killing beetle has since crossed the northern border into Canada’s southwestern Ontario cities. Many of the latest sightings of the emerald ash borer could be traced to human-assisted movement of firewood and other wood nursery products.

INTERACTIVE: MUSSELS INVADE U.S. INLAND WATERS

As of September 2007, the presence of emerald ash borer has been confirmed in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Maryland — states where ash tree population could range from low to high density. Experts fear it could eventually show up in Wisconsin

The bad news is, up to now, researchers are not positive that the emerald ash borer can be eradicated in North America.

Graphic by Alfred Elicierto and Enrique Rodriguez; published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2007.

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Also in this blog
Tragic end to a bombing raid
Newfoundland’s cod fishery killed by overfishing
So much water lost in leaky St. Clair River
Recalling the Nimrod air crash in Lake Ontario
Turning back the Asian carp
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  57. One area in the United States where emerald ash borer infestation has been reported is a residential area in Jessamine County in Lexington, Kentucky. Another site of infestation is a wooded area of Shelby County in the Louisville, Kentucky area.

    It was probably inevitable that this insect would be brought into Kentucky, but I am very sorry to hear that it has arrived. News coverage about the discovery of the emerald ash borer suggests two important ways that Kentuckians can help limit the spread of the tree-killing insect — Kentuckians are asked to avoid transporting firewood even within the state, and to not buy out-of-state firewood. Firewood could include infected ash wood. People with ash trees are asked to inspect them.


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