Sustainability Committee Meeting: Tuesday, Nov. 3

In Upcoming Events, by , on October 29th, 2015

Come to the next Sustainability Committee meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 12:40 p.m. in Gallagher Center’s multi-purpose room to find out the answer to this and many other mysteries of nature.

An insidious pest has been silently destroying trees across the U.S. known as emerald ash borer (EAB), or more correctly Agrilus planipennis.  This green iridescent beetle is believed to have been brought into the U.S. in wooden packing material from Asia.  The beetles lay eggs that hatch into larvae that burrow into the bark of ash trees.  EAB live right below the bark in the cambium layer, the only living part of the wood, and produce maze-like tunnels or galleries before finally exiting through a D-shaped hole as an adult.  They have already killed far in excess of 10 million trees.  Ash is one of the predominant hardwood trees, it is estimated that as much as 20 percent of our trees are ash. One can easily spot the damage done via a drive on the 190, where giant swatches of dead and dying trees can be seen in the town of Niagara and on Grand Island.  Lots of dead trees mean lots of firewood, right?  Not exactly, as it is illegal to transport ash from quarantined areas, of which there are many, including the entire Buffalo-Niagara region.  Ash was widely planted after the disappearance of American elm due to Dutch elm disease and it has a habit of spreading due to its abundant production of seeds.

Is there any hope for ash trees? There are systemic treatments that can be applied to trees if they are caught early enough.  The campus assessed its ash trees and used “triage” to determine an appropriate course of action, which meant removing certain trees and treating others.  Many municipalities are grappling with the issue of EAB and unfortunately time is not on their side.  Failure to act allows the larvae to inflict major damage onto the trees at which time the only recourse will be removal of dead/dying trees.  How is controlled in its native land?  It appears that there are several tiny parasitic wasps that feed on EAB.  There is some concern however regarding introducing yet another species as it is not known what it might do once established in the U.S.  At the present time the future looks grim for ash trees in North America, their loss will forever affect the landscape, as it has with the loss of the American Elm and the American Chestnut.  Efforts are underway to restore these majestic beauties to our homes and forests; time will tell the outcome, but that story will be told in a separate article.

Sustainably yours by Mark Gallo and Dan McMann