Homeowners and taxpayers are picking up most of the tab for damage caused by invasive tree-feeding insects that hide in packing materials, live plants and other goods imported from countries into the United States every year.
Results from a first-of-its-kind economic analysis, which estimates financial damage of importing foreign insects into the nation and trying to eradicate them once they establish, are reported in the journal PLoS One today.
The authors, which include University of Central Florida Biologist Betsy Von Holle, looked at three types of invasive pests that feed on U.S. trees, the emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, and hemlock woolly adelgid. Using actual costs, researchers calculated the economic damages for five categories: federal governments, local governments, households, residential property value losses and timber value losses to forest landowners. The costs were staggering.
The costs of invasive forest insects to local governments is on average more than $2 billion per year and residential property value loss due to forest insects averages $ 1.5 billion a year. The federal government spends on average about $216 million a year.
"It is costing taxpayers billions as the government tries to eradicate these invaders," Von Holle said. "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 and our analysis shows just how much it is costing all of us, not just government."
Wood-boring insects such as the emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorned beetle alone cost local governments an estimated $1.7 billion. Approximately $830 million is lost in residential property values each year.
The research team was composed of scientists from U.S. and Canadian universities and the U.S. Forest Service. The team's analysis also can be applied to other countries that face similar problems.
|Contact: Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala|
University of Central Florida