Emerald Ash Borer and Riparian Forests

Patrick Engelken (U.S. Forest Service)
Image of a green beetle (emerald ash borer) on a leaf. Image courtesy of Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.
September 28, 2021

View or download a copy of the episode transcript here.

By Liz Woodhull

In the inaugural episode of Restoration Roundup, we speak with Patrick Engelken, an entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service in St. Paul, Minnesota. While working to get his graduate degree at Michigan State University, Engelken studied the effects of Emerald Ash Borer (“EAB,” scientific name: Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire in the family Buprestidae) on riparian forests. Although EAB was first discovered in Michigan in 2002, the insects were not introduced to Vermont until 2018. EAB is an invasive species native to northeastern Asia that feeds on all kinds of ash species. 

Ash trees provide an important service to ecosystems as a key species in riparian forests. In these ecosystems, their roots help filter out pollutants and sediments; ash trees also help regulate nutrient distribution and cycling, leaf litter deposits, and forest floor temperature. In this episode, Engelken walks us through how EAB is detrimental to ash health, as the insects attack in the phloem layer of the tree. Phloem is a thin layer of cells that transport food around the tree to parts that need it. EAB eats at that thin layer, restricting nutrients from getting to all parts of the tree, and ultimately causing the tree to die. Because of the role ash trees play in riparian ecosystems in this region, the emergence of EAB in Vermont in 2018 poses a threat not only to ash tree health, but also to efforts to promote cleaner water and wildlife habitat for a healthier Vermont. 

Currently, Engelken is studying black ash health and performing tribal outreach for black ash support to the Anishinaabe in Minnesota. Although all ash species are susceptible to EAB, black ash are particularly vulnerable to these small green beetles.

Join us as we discuss how EAB invasion spreads, how to identify it, recent research on how to support ash tree health, what practitioners can do, and more! 

For more information on EAB, including how to identify it and how to control its spread, visit https://vtinvasives.org/land/emerald-ash-borer-vermont. 

The bird featured in today’s episode was the song of the Veery, bird found in Vermont’s riparian forests. The sound used was recorded by Sue Riffe at Brownfield Bog Wildlife Management Area in Maine on June 11th, 2017. The song was downloaded from xeno-canto.org

This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement (LC00A00695-0) to NEIWPCC in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

Image courtesy of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

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