Now that spring has arrived, and summer is quickly approaching, The Nature Conservancy, along with nursery industry partners and scientists, encourages people to take the time to learn more about tree-killing invasive insects and diseases as they spend more time outdoors. Everyday citizens can help detect forest pests and prevent their spread when are they are observant of the trees and forests around their homes and nearby natural areas while they are gardening, hiking and performing other outdoor activities.

Results from a recent poll conducted by The Nature Conservancy indicate that 95 percent of the public consider trees to be an important part of the character and quality of life where they live, and that 93 percent are concerned about the insects and diseases that kill trees.  The poll results also showed that 77 percent of the respondents live within 10 miles of a wooded area, underscoring the vital role the public can play in detecting the presence of tree-killing pests.

“More often than not, the presence of an invasive insect or disease that has spread to a new area of the country has been detected by a concerned member of the public,” said Faith Campbell, senior policy representative in the Conservancy’s Forest Health Program. “If we can better educate people about these non-native pests, the chances of controlling them will dramatically increase.”

Imported trees and shrubs, as well as untreated crates and pallets, can have harmful hitchhikers, such as beetles buried in wood or tiny mites on the leaves of a flowering plant. These pests can kill trees in neighborhoods and parks, choke farmland, and devastate forests. Remarkably, new non-native plant pest introductions are detected at a rate of one every twelve days, adding to the burden of the more than 450 damaging tree pests already established in the United States.

“There are many tree species in the forest now that are suffering from attack by pests, including the beech, which produces nuts that feed bears, turkey and many other types of wildlife, and the hemlock, which creates majestic, cathedral-like, old growth forests that many people cherish,” said Gary Lovett, senior scientist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. “The loss of these tree species creates ripple effects that ramify through ecosystems and affect our own lives.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering revising its regulations governing international plant trade. This revision would create a new category called NAPPRA (Not Authorized for Importation Pending Pest Risk Assessment), which is designed to increase the effectiveness of the USDA’s plant pest prevention efforts – in essence – a way to stop pests well before they might arrive at a U.S. port of entry.

The Nature Conservancy encourages members of the public to become familiar with the insects and diseases that are threats in their region by using the many online resources available, such as www.invasivepests.org or www.forestryimages.org. Following are some of the invasive insects and diseases that are currently threatening trees and other plants that live in forests and other ecosystems across the country. These pests can be contained or mitigated if new outbreaks are detected sufficiently early.

Non-Native Pest Threatened regions and trees/plants  
thousand cankers disease most of the East, from Pennsylvania south to Alabama and west to Iowa south to Texas: walnut trees  
sudden oak death the entire Southeast: rhododendrons, camellias, viburnums, and oak and beech trees  
laurel wilt & ambrosia beetle coastal Southeast: redbay trees in coastal regions from North and South Carolina to Mississippi; Florida: avocado groves  
gold-spotted oak borer southern California: coast, live & black oaks  
Asian longhorned beetle New England, Mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes states: many deciduous trees, including maple and birch  
emerald ash borer New England, Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, and Plains states: ash trees  
South American cactus moth the entire Southwest from Texas to California: flat-padded prickly pear cacti  
Harrisia cactus mealybug the entire Southwest from Texas to California: saguaro, barrel, and other columnar cacti  
   

The Nature Conservancy encourages members of the public who notice an insect or tree disease they don’t recognize to take a photo or obtain a specimen of it, and compare it to Web site photos of the suspected pest. Or, they can take the photo or specimen to a county agriculture extension office, local nursery, or a state agricultural office to obtain help with its identification. If they believe they have found a new outbreak of an invasive pest or pathogen, they should contact their state department of agriculture to find out where to send a sample of it and how it should be packaged to ensure nothing could potentially escape during shipment. For a listing of all the USDA-APHIS state plant health director offices, visit www.aphis.usda.gov and click on “Report a Pest or Disease” on the far right menu.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit us on the Web at www.nature.org.

The Continental Dialogue on Non-Native Forest Insects and Diseases (www.continentalforestdialogue.org) is a group of organizations and individuals that cultivates and catalyzes collaborative action among diverse interests to abate the threat to North American forests from non-native insects and diseases.

The Nature Conservancy and the Continental Dialogue on Non-Native Forest Insects and Diseases has launched an educational campaign, Plant Smart, to encourage careful planting and to support stronger regulation of plant imports that result in better protection of America’s trees from harmful foreign species. For more information, go to:  www.plantsmart.org

SOURCE  :The Nature Conservancy

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