Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Scientists Contemplate Forests Without Ash Trees

Location of emerald ash borer invasion

Back in 2002, when the borers were first discovered in North America — in Windsor, Ontario — experts thought it might be possible to eradicate them. But after about six months, researchers realized that the insects had been here for years, probably decades, and had already started spreading across the upper Midwest.
Despite a few moments of optimism since, hope has faded quickly.
“Ninety-nine percent of the ashes in North America are probably going to die,” said Andrew M. Liebhold, a research entomologist with the United States Forest Service.
Nobody was really studying the ecology of ash forests until the borers began destroying them. But now scientists are beginning to see what that change might look like.
A 2009 study in the journal Biological Invasions listed 43 native insect species that rely on ash trees for food or breeding. Those insects are the food supply for birds, including woodpeckers.
“You end up with a different ecosystem that different species prefer and where the old ones can’t do as well,” said Kathleen Knight, a research ecologist with the Forest Service.
Ash trees around here are getting wiped out.  We've got a couple dozen dead trees along the creeks, in fence rows and in my yard.

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