FunNature & AnimalMore than a million trees will die by 2050...

More than a million trees will die by 2050 from an invasive species

The findings of a new research developed by experts from McGill University, the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station and North Carolina State University (USA) and published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, showed recently that over the next three decades, more than a million street trees will be destroyed by invasive insects and would cost a lot to replace. Specifically, the report states that more than 1.4 million street trees will die and will cost a lot to replace.

 

Tree mortality in urban areas

The data showed that 90% of the 1.4 million dead trees in urban areas of the United States predicted in the research will fall victim to the emerald ash borer ( Agrilus planipennis ), a beetle native to Northeast Asia that was discovered as an invasive insect in Michigan in 2002 and is projected to wipe out virtually all ash trees in more than 6,000 urban areas.

The emerald ash borer (which likely arrived from East Asia on packaging material) will affect an area of 902,500 square kilometers, primarily in the southern and central United States, according to data in the report.

An invasive species refers to any type of living organism that is not native to an ecosystem and causes damage to it.

 

Urban trees, in check

The researchers, led by Emma J Hudgins of McGill University, Canada, cited Milwaukee, Chicago and New York City as “mortality hotspot cities.” These are areas with a large number of ash trees and are in the most current or closest path of the emerald ash borer.

The study, experts say, is the first spatial forecast of urban tree mortality due to invasive insect pests conducted in the US.

 

invasive insects

The researchers also forecast risks from insect species that have not yet reached the United States. They noted that Asian wood-boring insects such as the citrus longhorned beetle ( Anoplophora chinensis ), whose presence comes from inadvertent introduction via bonsai imported from Japan, pose the greatest threat.

“Hopefully these results may provide a warning against planting a single tree species across entire cities, as has been done with ash trees in North America. Increasing urban tree diversity provides resilience against infestations of pests . While we know this most intuitively for crop monocultures, many cities continue to plant what are essentially monoculture urban forests, ” comments Emma Hudgins, leader of the work.

 

How the results were obtained

Data collected from 30,000 US communities was used to estimate tree mortality over the next 30 years. The researchers combined this data with a model that predicted the spread of 57 different invasive insect species. The team also considered how deadly invasive insects are to which tree species and how much it would cost to remove and replace infected trees.

“Many urban areas are dominated by a single species or genus of tree, which means that a newly arrived insect for which those trees are a host can easily spread. In addition to this, there are generally fewer natural predators and warmer temperatures compared with nearby natural forests, which can benefit the development of invasive insects”, conclude the experts.

Referencia: Emma J. Hudgins, Frank H. Koch, Mark J. Ambrose, Brian Leung. Hotspots of pest‐induced US urban tree death, 2020–2050. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2022; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.14141

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