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Saving Ash Trees From The Emerald Ash Borer

The emerald ash borer has been wreaking havoc on ash trees throughout the United States ever since being introduced in 2002. Ash trees are extremely valuable and are one of the most abundant species of trees in the country, with an estimated total between seven and nine billion. Once infested with ash borers, the healthiest of ash trees only have a couple years to live. Reducing or eliminating the ash borer population is critical.

Extensive Damage

Recently the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared five of the six most prominent ash tree species in North America were “critically endangered.” The remaining species are listed as “endangered.” The rapidly-spreading emerald ash borer is currently causing $1 billion in annual losses nationwide. That number is expected to keep growing.

Impacting The Ecosystem

The Chesapeake Bay relies on our surrounding area for sustained life. As emerald ash borers make their way through Maryland, they will destroy more than just ash trees. There’s a large domino-effect that is set off when ash trees are killed. Nearly 40 different insects rely upon ash trees; their way of life would be upheaved. University of Maryland College Park entomologist Michael Raupp said, “It’s a huge ecological problem. It’s not just ash that goes down the toilet. It’s many other species.”

Colleen Kenny, who serves as a forest health watershed planner for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, stated in regard to the ash trees, “They’re important to protecting water quality. In a lot of cases, they help filter out pollutants and sediment. We don’t want to lose the filtering power of those trees.

Unhealthy trees can also prove dangerous to humans. Raupp mentioned, “These (weakened trees) pose an enormous risk of falling and injuring people and property.”

Finding A Solution

Scientists have recently introduced a new method to the fight against the emerald ash borer. A tiny wasp feasts on the borer’s eggs and larvae, which will help fight the borer’s spread by killing future generations. Speaking about the wasps, Raupp said, “We think these are probably our Obi-Wan Kenobis in terms of reducing those emerald ash borer populations in places along the C&O Canal and places in the natural forest where there are simply too many trees to be removed or chemically protected.”

Scientists have also begun to save seed sources, in hopes of one day replenishing the ash tree population. In the meantime, if you see an ash tree that’s infested with emerald ash borers, call your local trusted pest company.

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