The perils of pests

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Science  20 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6459, pp. 1261-1262
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6459.1261-c

The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is a small, invasive bark-boring insect that causes ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) to die within 2 to 3 years of infestation.


Introduced and invasive insects can cause extensive damage to native forests, either by direct consumption or as vectors of pathogens. Fei et al. quantified the effects of non-native pests, such as the emerald ash borer, Dutch elm disease, and chestnut blight in forests of the United States. They found that the 15 most damaging pests (of 83 recognized non-native pests) cause an estimated annual loss of 5.5 teragrams of carbon through tree death. Overall, the authors estimated that more than 40% of the live forest biomass in the United States is at risk from these invasions. Thus, efforts to combat non-native pests (including the prevention of future invasions) will have benefits in terms of reducing carbon losses.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 116, 17371 (2019).

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