A green beetle could spell the end of ash trees as we know them in Europe, a recent and rather depressing study reports.
The research, from the Journal of Ecology, looked at a large survey of trees across the continent and found that many are being killed both by the beetles, who are boring into their trunks, as well as being impacted by a fungus called ash-dieback.
The team described it as a “serious long-term threat” to the species, which is one of the most prevalent plants in the UK. The beetle has already lead to the loss of millions of trees in the US, and there is no obvious momentum directed at stopping its progress.
The study provides a detailed account and presents information on all aspects of the biology of Fraxinus excelsior L. (Ash) that are relevant to understanding its ecological characteristics and behaviour. The main topics are presented within the standard framework of the Biological Flora of the British Isles: distribution, habitat, communities, responses to biotic factors, responses to environment, structure and physiology, phenology, floral and seed characters, herbivores and disease, history, and conservation.
“Between the fungal disease and the beetle, 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 said.
The beetles don’t eat leaves or bark, but bore into the bark, critically weakening the plant. Separately, ash dieback has spread across Europe from Scandinavia, eventually reaching the UK via infected trees imported into the country. Unlike the beetle, the fungus does far more damage, killing leaves, branches and bark.
“This beetle is set to become the biggest problem faced by ash in Europe, far more serious than ash dieback,” the team said. “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.”