Metroparks deal with damages from the Emerald Ash BorerWritten by Scott Carpenter | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A tiny Asian insect is causing big problems in the Metroparks, across Ohio and beyond.
Since landing in Michigan in 2002, the emerald ash borer has spread to 13 states and two Canadian provinces, killing tens of millions of ash trees. The shiny green beetle is now found in more than two-thirds of the counties in Ohio, where an estimated half-billion ash trees are at risk.
Dealing with the aftermath of the borer invasion has become a costly and time consuming problem for the Metroparks and other land owners.
It’s actually the larvae of the beetle that kill trees. Larvae burrow into ash trees and eat the cambium layer between the bark and wood. They encircle the tree, stopping the flow of water and nutrients, causing the tree to die within two years.
Once the tree is dead, that’s only the beginning of the problem in the Metroparks, which now has thousands of dead trees that could pose a hazard to people and property.
“It’s a staggering number,” said Tim Gallaher, Metroparks land management supervisor.
Metroparks is partnering with the U.S. Forest Service to clean up after the devastating infestation.
Funded by a $1.3 million grant from the American Recovery and Restoration Act, the project started this winter and includes removing dead ash trees at Pearson, Wildwood and Secor Metroparks. It will also involve removing invasive plants that have flourished as a result of open forest canopies, and planting thousands of new trees to take the place of those that were lost.
The goal of the project is to remove dead trees that pose a potential safety hazard, said Gallaher, who stressed that it is not related to a 2003 tree-cutting project by a state agency that attempted to stop the spread of the insect by removing ash trees at Pearson.
“We’re not trying to stop the spread at this point; we’re cleaning up the mess,” he said.
Metroparks is contracting with companies from now through December 2011 to fell thousands of dead or dying ash trees within 100 feet of roads, trails and structures.
The project will create or sustain about 15 private-sector “green” jobs in the arboriculture and forest restoration industry while restoring forest ecosystems in the economically-challenged greater Toledo area. Additional jobs will be created as Metroparks hires crews to remove invasive species and restore natural landscapes.
“The emerald ash borer has been devastating, and it could not have come at a worse time because of the current economic challenges,” Gallaher said. “This project will allow us to remove hazardous trees more quickly than we would have been able to do with our own resources.”
At times, trails at the three parks will be closed and detours posted.
In an ironic twist to the EAB story in Ohio, American elm trees are being planted to replace some of the ash trees lost. The irony is that many of the ash were planted to replace elm trees killed by Dutch elm disease.
Researchers from the U.S. Forest Service have raised elms from a handful of trees that survived because they are immune to the disease.
A big question now is whether any ash trees will survive the emerald ash borer assault, or whether the common tree will disappear from the American landscape for good. So far, researchers say, the beetle has killed 100 percent of the ash trees in infested areas.
This time of year, adult insects are emerging from their D-shaped holes in the bark of ash trees, taking flight and laying eggs. It is also the start of vacation season, when mulch and firewood can spread the borer, creating infestations in new areas.
Lucas County is one of the majority of Ohio counties within a quarantine zone. According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, it is illegal to move ash trees, logs, branches, wood chips, ash bark and all hardwood firewood, out of the quarantined area. The materials can be moved within the zone, but cannot leave contiguous quarantined areas.
A federal quarantine also prohibits the movement of ash tree materials and hardwood firewood out of the state of Ohio without federal certification. For more information, visit www.emeraldashborer.info.
Scott Carpenter is director of public relations for Metroparks of the Toledo Area.