Researchers at the Mitchell Center’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative are closely watching the movement of an invasive beetle known as the emerald ash borer (EAB). The beetle has recently been discovered in New Hampshire’s ash trees and poses a threat to Maine. According to the USDA Forest Service, EAB was introduced into North America sometime in the 1990′s, and was first reported killing ash (Fraxinus) trees in the Detroit and Windsor, Michigan areas, in 2002. The adult EABs feed on the leaves of ash species, causing minor damage. They then lay eggs in the bark of these trees. When their larvae hatch, they burrow into the trees feeding on the inner bark, and eventually killing the tree.
Since 2002, infestations have been found throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Canada. In April, EAB was discovered along a three mile stretch of the Merrimack River in Concord, New Hampshire. This invasion puts at risk the 25 million ash trees making up six percent of the New Hampshire forests and is a potential game changer for Maine’s ash tree population. All three Maine species of ash are at risk from the beetle which could alter biodiversity statewide. The 2010 Maine State Forest Assessment noted that millions of dollars have already been spent by the USDA and state and local governments to remediate areas where EAB is prevalent.
The Mitchell Center’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) researchers, led by Darren Ranco, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Chair of Native American Programs at UMaine, have teamed up with stakeholders from across the state, including the Maine Forest Service, to work on solutions that include Wabanaki basketmakers. The infestation of EAB would jeopardize the livelihood of the basketmakers, who rely on the brown and black ash “basket trees” for fiber to make flat reeds used to produce their time-honored craft. The SSI team’s strategy is to create a safety net to slow down EAB by helping state and tribal agencies develop emergency response plans. These plans outline steps for addressing a borer invasion, from monitoring and control to communication and quarantines. This summer, the team will continue working with the park service and campground owners to educate visitors on the importance of supporting the ban on imported firewood–the primary transport method of the borer.
Learn more the SSI Emerald Ash Borer Project.
Learn more about the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance.
Image Description: Emerald Ash Borer