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The Silent Extinction: How an invasive species is likely to destroy the Ash Tree

There is a mass extinction occurring right now all across North America that millions of people have never hear of. First discovered in North America in 2002, the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive species native to Mongolia and northern China, has destroyed tens of millions of Ash Trees across North America; and it is likely to destroy millions more.

The Emerald Ash Borer does its damage as larvae. They burrow into the bark of Ash Trees to protect against the cold and in the process of this, cut off the nutrients and water the Ash Tree needs. Scientist suspect that the Emerald Ash Borer has been in North America at least ten years before it was detected.

The devastating effects of the Ash Borer go far beyond losing a tree on your property or favorite hiking trail. The destruction of Ash trees could have a chain effect that leads to the endangerment of numerous plant and animal species. The removal of the canopy that the Ash Trees create leads to sunlight hitting spots of the forest floor that it previously did not. This could lead to invasive species of thickets and bushes covering the forest floor, preventing native plants from growing. Which, in turn, would lead to animals that inhabit the forest going without some of their primary food sources.

In the past, invasive insects have been fought by a combination of insecticides, awareness, and felling of infected trees. This proved fairly successful with the Asian long-horned Beetle in Chicago, but the Emerald Ash Borer presents a different set of challenges. Firstly, the Emerald Ash Borer is march harder to spot than the more distinctive Asian Asian long-horned Beetle. Secondly, it is much easier to deal with an invasive species when it is still localized. While the long-horned beetle was still mostly confined to Illinois, the Ash Borer has spread all across the Upper Midwest.

All factors considered, it may seem that there is nothing that can be done. However, with increased awareness, improved insecticides, and new containment techniques there is hope. The fate of millions of Ash Trees depend on that hope.

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  1. ekauli

    I’ve done multiple projects in biology on invasive species, and I think they are one of most underrated threats to the environment. They harm biodiversity (as the ash tree does), destroy ecosystems, and take over whole areas. They become such a problem because of their generalist traits (fitness to large array of ecosystems), and their ability to reproduce fast. What makes invasive species hard to fight is that any method has side effects to the rest of the environment. For example, the insecticides talked about in the post most likely would provide adverse effects to other organisms as well, unless they are extremely specific, which are very hard to make. Because most invasive species are introduced by humans, I think the best way to fight it, is awareness, like the post alludes to. I found a really good article that talks about invasive species generally, their effects and what we can do to stop them.

  2. celliswallier

    Hey Chromison
    This post is important. My family goes camping a lot and a few years ago I saw the effect of these bugs first-hand. Up in Canada the infestation is on a whole different level, and I’d go on miles of hiking through completely destroyed forests.
    Here’s a link with a few more statistics from our northern neighbors which expand on how massive the impact has been there. The Canadian government estimates that the cost of fighting the ash borers may reach $2 Billion by 2032! Also, within six years of arrival in a forest, the ash borers destroy 99% of that forest’s ash trees!

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