Another pesky parasite has staked its claim on Minnesota's natural resources, the Emerald ash borer
has made an appearance and now threatens Minnesota's stock of more than 900 million ash trees.
The bug was first found in the continental United States some eight years ago and is thought to have hitched a ride from China. Since its arrival the ash borer has been accused of destroying millions of trees along the east coast by tunneling into its hosts and living off their nutrients. But the ash borer is one of many invasive species that Minnesota's environment has had to cope with, and a trend that has become apparent in most of these invasions is human enabling.
Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, garlic mustard and many other non-native flora and fauna have all made a dent in Minnesota's environment, and could not have been nearly as effective without people spreading them around. It's difficult to chastise a distracted boater who might overlook a tiny strand of milfoil wedged into his propeller after a long day on the lake, but this type of negligence is directly the reason that our lakes are becoming overrun with the stuff.
Likewise, the ash borer is a relatively slow moving pest that is indeed destructive but does not have the capability to wipe out an entire ash tree population without the aid of human transportation. Lugging firewood from your city home to the deep woods for a weekend camping trip is the perfect opportunity for an ash borer hitchhiker to dive deep into the ash tree population. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture
offered suggestions like buying local wood from camping destinations and disposing of fallen trees or branches within your communities as methods to help curb the ash borer spread.
The beautiful city of Alexandria in northern Minnesota boasts forests dominated by more than 60 percent ash trees, according to a report by the Star Tribune
. Slicing out a chunk of woodland that size would make the shady wooded region much more bleak. With a little awareness and effort, the fight against invasive species can be effective. Knowing that we are the ones facilitating the environmental destruction caused by harmful exotic species like the emerald ash borer should make us all feel a bit guilty. Buggers like these are destructive enough on their own, giving them free rides across the whole state makes matters far more dire. I hope my fellow Minnesotans keep a watchful eye, and we can help combat this new predator to our wonderful woodlands.
Photo credit: psforsberg/Flickr