Local government, homeowners paying price for non-native forest insects

Sep 10, 2011
This is an emerald ash borer. Credit: David Cappaert, Michigan State University

Non-native, wood-boring insects such as the emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorned beetle are costing an estimated $1.7 billion in local government expenditures and approximately $830 million in lost residential property values every year, according to study by a research team that included scientists with the U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station.

The research effort was funded by The Nature Conservancy and supported by the University of California / Santa Barbara's National Center for and Synthesis (NCEAS). The team included scientists from the U.S. Service and U.S. and Canadian academic institutions. The research findings were published in the on-line journal on Sept. 9.

This study provides the most comprehensive estimates of the costs of non-native forest insects that are currently available for the United States. While invasive species are widely recognized as being among the greatest threats to biodiversity and ecosystem stability worldwide, there has been little research into their economic impact.

"Solving the problems posed by non-native forest insects demands that we have useful tools and the motivation to use them, and this study provides both," according to Michael T. Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station. "This is a great example of how Forest Service scientists collaborate with others to produce relevant and effective tools."

According to the study, more than 450 non-native insects are established in the United States. "This study underscores the fact that we all have a stake in environmental issues," according to Bob Haight, research forester with the U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station. "The shows that cities and homeowners have a strong interest in preventing the inadvertent import of non-native invasive species."

For each of the three main feeding guilds, which are based on the insects' feeding habits, researchers identified one high impact "poster pest" that was the most damaging species of its guild to date. Poster pests identified for the study were the emerald ash borer in the borer guild, hemlock woolly adelgid in the sap feeder guild, and gypsy moth in the foliage feeder guild.

For each poster pest, researchers analyzed five cost categories: (1) federal governmental expenditures (e.g. survey, research, regulation, and outreach), (2) local governmental expenditures (tree removal, replacement, and treatment), (3) household expenditures (tree removal, replacement, and treatment), (4) residential property value losses and (5) timber value losses to forest landowners.

For all of the guilds studied, homeowners and local governments are bearing the greatest share of costs associated with non-native forest insects. The wood- and phloem-boring insects, including the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle, are the species that create the greatest economic damage to urban trees. Of the three guilds, borers were represented by the fewest species, but a high proportion of them – 20 percent – are damaging, according to the study.

Of the three guilds, efforts to control or manage sap feeders received the fewest federal dollars ($14 million annually), although they caused substantial losses in real estate values – approximately $260 million per year. Costs associated with foliage feeders were substantially lower than costs associated with borers for all categories except annual federal expenditures, which were slightly greater ($110 million for foliage feeders and $92 million for borers). Foliage feeders were estimated to cause approximately $410 million per year in lost property value.

"In the forest insect research community we've known for many years that invading species are a huge problem but now that we were finally able to calculate their economic impact, even I am a little bit shocked by the level of damage," according to Andrew Liebhold, a research entomologist with the Northern Research Station.

The team calculated a 32 percent risk that a new borer that is as damaging or more costly than the will invade in the next 10 years. That calculation may be reduced if recent international standards targeting pathways of introduction such as wood packaging materials are effectively implemented.

Development of the study's analytical framework is as much an end product of the study as its findings. The framework can be used to estimate the economic impacts of natural resource disturbances at scales ranging from municipalities to nations in any country where data are available. It can be easily adapted for estimating costs of a variety of natural resource disturbances in addition to , including fire, disease, and water pollution.

Explore further: Call for alternative identification methods for endangered species

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Forest pests accumulating despite regulations

Dec 06, 2010

Nonindigenous insects and pathogens continue to become established in US forests with regularity despite regulations intended to prevent this, according to a study published in the December 2010 issue of BioScience. The s ...

Fighting ash borer: To spray or not to spray?

Aug 12, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Perhaps the only good news in the Aug. 4 announcement that emerald ash borers have been found in southeastern Wisconsin is that the invasive pest took its time getting here.

Scientists exploit ash tree pest's chemical communication

Apr 07, 2011

A newly identified chemical sex attractant, or pheromone, of the emerald ash borer could mean improved traps for monitoring and controlling the tree-killing beetle. That's the goal of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ...

Invasive bugs cause tremendous damage in Maryland

Jul 29, 2011

Two invasive insects from Asia are poised to cause millions of dollars in destruction in Maryland and throughout the United States. Although no definitive methods exist to stop them just yet, University of ...

Cornell leads fight against invasive emerald ash borer

Sep 02, 2010

Cornell University is leading efforts to manage outbreak populations of the emerald ash borer (EAB), a beetle that has the potential to devastate ash trees in the Northeast. The new invasive species is already ...

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

3 hours ago

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

13 hours ago

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rlt
not rated yet Sep 11, 2011
Spent much of the summer working a 160 acre tree farm in SE Ohio. The farm is overrun with invasives, (as are all the neighboring lands). Kudzu, multiflora rose, japanese honeysuckle, privet, autumn olive, and assorted invasive insects. Those insects have killed several hundred American elms on the property via the insect borne Dutch elm disease. The emerald ash borer is coming soon. Several local folks have recommended to me that I have the ashes cut before the borer arrives, preventative logging. So.... direct expenses to me as a local land owner and arborist are: removing dead trees from roads and from near buildings, and removal of live trees prior to optimal harvest year. I wonder if the defoliation I've noted in the walnuts is due to voracious import? I do wish the critters would chomp their invasive bretheren rather than the preferred native species.

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.