An Invasive Species is Killing Off Trees All Around Us

by Avery Prudenti ‘22

Trees are one of the most important parts of creating a balanced ecosystem, yet they are commonly the most overlooked, overused, and underappreciated. Currently, all across the Mid-Atlantic, specific types of trees are dying off for multiple reasons. These trees mainly consist of ash and oak trees, which are some of the most common trees in Maryland. This number of dying trees could pose a big issue in the long run, because it is believed that a high number of dying trees will release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which is going to accelerate climate change.

Ash trees all over Maryland are being cut down because of an invasive species called the Emerald ash borer (EAB). These beetles are arguably the most destructive forest pest to have come to America and have left hundreds of millions of dead ash trees all over the East coast. This beetle is relatively new to America and it is believed to have traveled here on a solid wood packing material that was carried in cargo ships and airplanes from Asia sometime in 2002. It was introduced into Prince George’s County in 2003, yet was only confirmed to be infesting ash trees in 2015. The EAB information network wrote that, “The larvae (the immature stage) feeds on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients.” These invasive species can kill smaller ash trees in one to two years and bigger ones in three to four years. Signs that trees are infested can include bark splitting, increased woodpecker activity, and water sprouts at the bottom of the trunk. These pests can be prevented if more people were made aware of the issue and look for the signs in the ash trees around them, which could quicken the process of hiring an arborist, or tree surgeon, to either attempt to rid the trees of the beetles, or cut them down to stop the spread.

Oak trees, especially older ones, have also been dying across the mid-Atlantic because of weather, construction, and diseases. This decline in Oak trees intensified because of the massive, record-holding rainfall from 2018 to 2019. According to the National Weather Service, July and November of 2018 were the wettest calendar months on record with July at 16.73 inches and November at 8.14 inches. From this rainfall to a flash drought in the summer of 2019, many Oak trees weren’t able to recover. Signs that these trees are dying include the browning of leaves, thinning canopy cover, and a significant loss of branches. 

These drastic weather changes are caused in part by the current climate crisis, and these dead trees are only going to further that process. Climate change can feel far away, but trees are dropping dead all around us.