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Mobilizing to Fight the Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash BorerMobilizing Diverse Interests to Address Invasive Species Threats to Coupled Natural/Human Systems: The Case of the Emerald Ash Borer in Maine

Institutions: University of Maine, Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance
Sponsor: National Science Foundation through the Sustainability Solutions Initiative

The invasive emerald ash borer could decimate Maine’s ash trees—and jeopardize the livelihoods of Maine’s Indian basket makers, who rely on the tree for their time-honored craft. Darren Ranco, UMaine associate professor of anthropology and Chair of Native American Programs, is leading an SSI team that brings together diverse groups to try to prevent, detect and respond to this threat.

Why This Project?

Emerald ash borers have destroyed millions of ash trees in 14 states and 2 Canadian provinces. The insect is expected to arrive in Maine, where it will have economic impacts not only on basket makers, but on other communities and the forest products industry as well. The borer kills all species of ash, including those widely planted by municipalities as street trees, potentially costing communities millions of dollars to remove and replace. In addition, the insect has the potential to affect the transportation of harvested ash from forest to producer.

Connecting Knowledge with Action

researchers stripping bark from ash treeRanco’s team, which includes members of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, is collaborating with tribes, state and federal foresters, landowners and others to develop one of the nation’s first proactive, coordinated responses on a statewide level.

The SSI team joined others in presenting expert testimony to the Maine State Legislature, which led to a ban on imported firewood to help prevent the borer from spreading. The team is continuing to develop solutions by mapping Maine’s ash tree populations, learning how to identify a borer attack, educating the public and establishing a seed bank should the beetle strike. Their findings will lead to new strategies for protecting Maine’s three species of ash trees, inform public policy and establish effective methods to bring together diverse groups to address threats from invasive species.

1. Kovacs, K., R. Haight, D. McCullough, R. Mercader, N. Siegert, and A. Liebhold. 2010. Cost of potential emerald ash borer damage in U.S. communities, 2009-2019. Ecological Economics 69:569-578.

Update on the Research

Team Members:

Additional Resources

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Supported by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine.