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Emerald Spectre haunts Ontario's ash forests

A new study shows that while we're winning isolated battles, we could well lose the war to prevent the devastating spread of the emerald ash borer in eastern Canada and the United States. It's a failure that would cost billions of dollars in lost timber and ornamental trees, and dramatically change the forest and neighbourhood landscape in eastern North America - with even more impact than Dutch elm disease.

The soon-to-be published study is the first to document the invasive beetle's rate and distribution of spread from its epicentre in the Windsor-Detroit area.

"In the Great Lakes region this beetle invasion is mushrooming out like an atomic bomb going off," says the study's co-author Dr. Hugh MacIsaac, an expert in invasive species at the University of Windsor's Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research.

The small, metallic green beetle ?adults are about the length of a thumbnail ?was first detected following an unusual dieback of ash trees in southeastern Michigan and southwestern Ontario in the summer of 2002. A native of southeast Asia, the insect is capable of rapidly spreading with a little human help. Adult beetles lay eggs under tree bark and the feeding larvae kill trees by disrupting the flow of nutrients in the soft tissues under the bark.

The new study funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) reveals that unprecedented actions taken to stop the borer's spread have so far failed to halt its outward march. At risk are nine billion ash trees in the United States and Ontario, with an estimated value of more than $300 billion in the United States alone.

"Its distribution continued to spread during 2005 in the Great Lakes region despite extensive containment, quarantine and eradication measures," write the authors, including Ken Marchant, a lead emerald ash borer expert at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Since 2002, all areas in Michigan and Ontario
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Source:Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council


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