Invasive pests and pathogens have decimating effect on tree populations over time

Study states that hundreds of invasive species have had a profound impact on tree morality in the eastern United States

Photo Credit: Sigfrid Lundberg

As much as 25% of tree deaths in the eastern United States may be the result of foreign pests and pathogens, according to a rough estimate from a Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute study reported in Science Magazine.

Scientists have documented more than 450 foreign insects and pathogens that have found their way to North America and feed on trees, according to the study.

“Limiting the spread of invasives will yield benefits for biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and other ecosystem services,” wrote Kristina Anderson-Teixeira, the study’s lead author. The research has been based at Shenandoah National Park and at a separate Smithsonian forest site, according to the article.

One of the first noteworthy examples of this was from the 1904 introduction of a fungus that decimated the American Chestnut across the U.S. The American Chestnut Foundation is working to develop blight resistant variations of the species.

Dutch elm disease, a similarly devastating disease based on a fungi, has nearly wiped out that species over the past 70 years.

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