Ash trees in Europe are being threatened with extinction. Britain’s most common hedgerow tree is being steadily destroyed by two parasites. The bright green beetle, as well as ash dieback fungus, could wipe out the trees similar to the widespread elimination of the elm, indicates a new research.
According to the research, published in the Journal of Ecology, a green beetle and a fungus called ash dieback are jointly destroying the ash trees in Europe. The research studied surveys of trees across the continent and realized many trees are being increasingly killed. The primary reason for their untimely death is the beetles that are ferociously boring into their trunks and hollowing them out. However, these trees are also being attacked by the ash dieback fungus.
Expressing concern over the bleak outlook for Britain’s third most common tree yesterday, Dr. Peter Thomas, of Keele University, said, “Between the fungal disease ash dieback and a bright green beetle called the emerald ash borer, it is likely that almost all ash trees in Europe will be wiped out – just as the elm was largely eliminated by Dutch elm disease.”
The team has described the death of elm trees as a “serious long-term threat” to the species. The hedgerow tree is one of the most prevalent plants in the U.K, but it is most likely to be eliminated by the threats, noted the paper. It added the British countryside, which has always been synonymous with the ash tree, will never look the same. What’s even more concerning is the apparent helplessness to curtail the loss.
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Incidentally, the bright green beetle, native to Asia, has been increasingly spreading its devastation across the world. The beetle has already started to appear as far as Moscow and is rapidly heading west. It is believed to have already reached Sweden, reported the Daily Mail. The miniature creature, whose Latin name is Agrilus planipennis, is also known as ash borer. It was accidentally introduced to North America in 2002. Since then, the creature has already killed off millions of ash trees in the United States. However, there hasn’t been any focused effort or visible momentum aimed at stopping its unrelenting march, continued the researchers.
“This beetle is set to become the biggest problem faced by ash in Europe, far more serious than ash dieback. If the loss of ash due to ash dieback and the emerald ash borer becomes severe, which appears highly probable, this will cause large-scale change to many communities and many associated organisms will also decline.”
How is the beetle driving the ash tree towards extinction? Incidentally, the beetle doesn’t destroy the leaves or the bark. In fact, the adults only eat the leaves for sustenance and aren’t responsible for the destruction. However, it is the larvae that are responsible for killing the tree from within. The young bore into the wood, critically weakening the ash tree. With its core structure weakened, the tree quickly loses its ability to gather nutrients and sustain itself.
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Meanwhile, the ash dieback is a rapidly-spreading fungus that results in the death of the leaves and branches. With its critical components damaged, the tree dies off in a matter of weeks. The devastation caused by the fungus was first spotted in eastern Europe in 1992 and in Britain in 2012. Since then, the disease has spread to more than two million square kilometers, and its effects can be observed from Scandinavia to Italy.
With the ash trees facing extinction, more than 1,000 species, including 12 birds and 55 mammals, could gradually vanish as they depend on the trees for survival, noted Dr. Thomas.
“Of these, over 100 species of lichens, fungi and insects are dependent upon the ash tree and are likely to decline or become extinct if the ash was gone.”
The dying of ash trees could easily set off an irreversible change in the biodiversity. The only hope researchers have indicated is the rapid cloning of the species, some of which have shown resistance, but only against the fungus. The beetle is still to be dealt with.
[Photo by Bethany Clarke/Getty Images]