Monday, October 30, 2017

Japanese Barberry and Lyme Disease

The below story was aired in New Jersey, regarding the relationship between Japanese barberry and Lyme disease. It is done in a typical sensational network news style, but nice for helping to spread the word. A couple of great videos are shown in the original piece.  Click here to go directly to the full news story.  The below video is from the University of Minnesota.  It tells a similar story.

Why One Plant May Be Fueling the Spread of Lyme Disease

Japanese barberry, an invasive plant species banned for sale in New York and Connecticut, could be making an already bad Lyme disease problem in the tri-state worse. Brian Thompson reports in the fourth edition of a five-part series on the fight against Lyme disease.

According to the CDC, Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector-borne, infectious disease in the United States

Ever heard of a Japanese barberry plant? It's a small shrub, common in home and commercial landscaping. Acres of it grow wild in tri-state woods. Deer avoid it. Ticks, however, do not.

Japanese barberry shrubs are warmer and more humid than other plants, creating an environment where ticks can thrive and reproduce, increasing the risk of transmission of Lyme and other potentially dangerous infectious diseases, experts say.

Ticks have to be infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme in order to transmit it. White-footed mice, which are common carriers of that bacteria, often hide in the barberry's dense and thorny branches. One infected mouse passing through can transfer bacteria to any number of ticks, which then pass the infection to their next host.

Dr. Scott Williams, the lead researcher on Japanese barberry for the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), told NBC Connecticut that the barberry is "the ecological perfect storm for tick-borne diseases." His team's research showed an acre of forest containing Japanese barberry averages a Lyme disease-carrying tick population 12 times higher than an acre with no barberry.

What to Know:
•Japanese barberry is an exotic invasive shrub that is well established in home and commercial landscapes; it's been seen in 31 states
•The environment it creates is conducive to ticks and white-footed mice; Lyme-causing bacteria is easily transferred from mice to ticks, then to next host
•One leading researcher says that makes the barberry "the ecological perfect storm for tick-borne diseases"

Source: Why One Plant May Be Fueling the Spread of Lyme Disease - NBC New York
Follow us: @nbcnewyork on Twitter | NBCNewYork on Facebook
Published at 7:39 AM EDT on Oct 27, 2017


Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Look into the History of the American Chestnut Tree

This article is extremely well written.  It is one of the best reiterations I have seen on the history of the American Chestnut Tree and it’s battle with the blight.  It is well worth the read.  It is rather long so be sure you have the time to get through it.  It also quotes Professor of Forest Biology Kim Steiner and highlights Penn State's involvement in the effort to breed blight-resistant American chestnut trees. An embedded video features chestnut orchard manager Steve Hoy, research technologist in Forest Ecosystem Science and Management.

Posted October 24, 2017
By Nick Malawskey

STATE COLLEGE -- About a mile as the crow flies from Beaver Stadium, where the Penn State faithful gather each fall in search of gridiron glory, stands a chestnut tree.

On this late summer afternoon the chestnut's branches are heavy with burrs -- those unique spiny balls that typically protect three nuts. There was a time when any child of the Pennsylvania woods was as familiar with the chestnut burr as an apple, and for many of the same reasons -- good eating, and good for pelting your friends when they're not looking.

In a good year (and this year appears to be good) a single tree can bear more than a thousand burrs -- a prolific bounty that bends this particular chestnut's branches away from the sky and down toward the ground.

Beyond the high deer fence and away over the hill, the remnants of the previous Penn State football game still litter the grounds of Beaver Stadium. There on the hill the stadium stands alone, a shrine of sorts to human athleticism that dwarfs the parking lots and fields that surround it. Back on its sheltered hillside, the chestnut tree also dwarfs the other trees around it.

For another group of faithful (perhaps not as numerous as those who gather at the stadium) this tree also stands as a shrine, a symbol. Rather than celebrating the prowess of the athlete, however, this tree stands as a reminder of humanity's complicated legacy -- of our hubris, and the danger of good intentions, of our ignorance and, perhaps to some degree our vanity; but also as a symbol of hope, of a long promise -- as yet unfulfilled -- and of the enduring, relentless drive that often marks the best of the human spirit.

It is this tree, growing tall and straight on the hillside near State College -- and its relatives and descendants in orchards scattered across the Eastern Seaboard -- that might finally fulfill the hundred-year-old quest to save the American Chestnut, to bring back a tree that was once counted among the kings of the forest but today exists only in scattered enclaves and the memories of our oldest generations.

At the turn of the last century -- before the rapid mechanization of the 20th century and the rise of the suburbs, before highways crisscrossed the land, before there was a Department of Environmental Protection -- there was the American Chestnut.

For the rest of the story click here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Ash Trees on the Brink?

Ash infested with Emerald Ash Borer
Interesting article, see below.  I'm not convinced we are ready to ask if ash trees are going to go extinct......even with the loss of millions of mature trees.  The woods are loaded with ash seedlings and saplings.  I think a bigger question is what will happen to those trees when they get large enough to be infested with the beetle, which they say is when a tree reaches only 2 inches in diameter.  Will enough beetles still be around to infest this next generation of ash or will the population have crashed?  Only time will tell.  If we can get enough to reach seed bearing age we may be able to keep producing a new generation of ash trees.  She does make a very good point in that ash may become "functionally extinct" which means the population of ash that remains may be too small to play a significant role in the environment.  That certainly may be the case.

Ash tree on brink of extinction in Northeast US

Emerald Ash Borer larva
Five prominent species of ash tree in the eastern US have been driven to the brink of extinction from years of lethal attack by a beetle, a scientific group says. Tens of millions of trees in the US and Canada have already succumbed, and the toll may eventually reach more than 8 billion, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said Thursday.

Ash trees are a major part of eastern forests and urban streets, providing yellow and purplish leaves to the bounty of fall colors. Their timber is used for making furniture and sports equipment like baseball bats and hockey sticks.

The rampage of the emerald ash borer is traced to the late 1990s, when it arrived from Asia in wood used in shipping pallets that showed up in Michigan. Asian trees have evolved defenses against the insect, but the new North American home presented it with vulnerable trees and no natural predators.

“The populations are exploding,” said Murphy Westwood of the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. Infestations have been detected in 30 states. “It’s a very efficient killer,” Westwood said. “As the ash borer moves through a forest, it will completely kill all of the mature ash trees within three or four years.”

She led the scientific assessment that resulted in classifying the five species as critically endangered — meaning they are facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. The change appears on the IUCN’s Red List, considered by scientists the official index of what animals and plants are in danger of disappearing. The species are the green, black, white, pumpkin and blue ash.

A sixth species, the Carolina ash, was put in the less serious category of “endangered” because it might find some refuge from the infestation in the southern part of its range, which includes Florida, Texas and Cuba, Westwood said.

Dan Herms, an entomologist at Ohio State University who studies the ash borer, called it “the most devastating insect ever to invade North American forests.” It’s already the most expensive because it has killed so many urban trees that had to be removed, disposed of and replaced, which has cost billions of dollars, he said.

Herms, who was not involved in the IUCN project, said he’s not sure the ash species will literally disappear. But he said they could become “functionally extinct,” with populations too small to play a significant role in the environment for benefits like providing shelter and filtering water.

September 14, 2017