University’s ash trees fall victim to invasive species

Lyndsey Schley

Ash trees on Kent State University’s campus have been found to be infected by emerald ash borers, an invasive species that is known for killing the trees.

The emerald ash borers are native to China and have become a serious problem to forestry in Ohio since it has no natural predators, grounds manager Heather White said.

“The larvae feed on the interior of the tree, and what that does [is disrupt] the flow in the tree to feed itself from the roots to the crown,” White said.

The ash borer kills trees within 3-5 years, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The pest was first discovered in Ohio in the Toledo area in 2001.

The university is operating on the assumption that all the ash trees on campus are infected.

“Any ash tree that is infected and showing significant decline will be removed, and it’s only a matter of time until, eventually, all the ash trees are removed,” White said.

The bug only infests ash trees. White estimates there are less than 100 such trees on campus. Eventually, all the trees will probably have to be replaced.

“We estimate that it will take less than $3,000 per year to remove trees over the course of 3-5 years,” White said. “We are also hedging our bets that all trees will not need to be removed at once.”

The ash trees will be replaced by trees that suit their current location.

“In the parking areas, we will look for drought-tolerant, salt-tolerant trees,” White said. “We have more options when the trees are surrounded by lawn.”

It is expected the emerald ash borers first came from China in packing products, possibly wooden crates. One of the main forms of transport within America is most likely firewood, White said.

“It is a very significant issue for urban forests in general, and there still is a ban on moving firewood [outside the state],” White said. “The entire state of Ohio is quarantined, and it’s assumed infected. Other states adjacent to us are not, and it’s important to know that it’s not okay to move firewood.”

White said that her department’s priority in this issue is safety.

“Our primary objective here is the safety of everyone on campus, so we’re not going to let a tree deteriorate to the point of not being safe for anybody to be around,” White said.

Contact Lyndsey Schley at [email protected].