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Ravenous foreign pests threaten national treasures
Date:12/6/2010

Foreign pests are eating their way through our national forests, destroying majestic scenery and costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

If enforcement efforts to prevent their importation aren't stepped up, irreplaceable resources will be lost forever and taxpayers can expect to fork over billions of dollars by 2019, according to a comprehensive study published today in BioScience.

Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Michigan State University, the University of Central Florida and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service analyzed the impact of invasive insects and pathogens introduced into the United States through 2007.

What they found was a staggering list of more than 455 insects and 16 pathogens that are destroying everything from oak trees in California to redbay trees in Central Florida. Based on the pattern, the researchers predict one especially destructive pest will sneak into the nation every two years.

"Entire forests are being wiped out, and it is costing taxpayers millions as the government tries to eradicate invaders that threaten industries dependent on trees and plants," said Besty Von Holle, a UCF biologist who worked on the project. "We're losing a variety of native species as a result of importing these pests. It's not just aesthetics. It's impacting our economy."

These pests and diseases sneak into the country on everything from horticultural (or plant) imports to the wooden pallets used to transport building supplies, electronic goods and toilet paper, among other products.

"Global trade has had tremendous benefits for Americans," said lead author Juliann Aukema from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara. "Unfortunately, it also has resulted in the introduction of destructive insects and other organisms that threaten native ecosystems and the services they provide."

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Contact: Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala
zkotala@mail.ucf.edu
407-823-6120
University of Central Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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