Ash trees and human health

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Published on: January 24, 2013
A lone ash tree in Worcestershire

I have to admit that as a plant scientist plugged into the major social media networks that when I was inundated with articles and posts about ash dieback (Chalara fraxineai) in December, I got a bit fed up with it. Of course I appreciate all species have intrinsic value and it will be sad if Britain loses its ash trees – but I have no emotional attachment to ash trees, and pathogens are a fact of life. British countryside is managed land, so with effective management other trees will fill the gaps. However, a paper published in the February issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine (Donovan et al., 2013) suggests the health effects on humans of losing trees are significant, and that serious loss of ash trees in the UK could have consequences beyond the financial burden on the forestry industry and the short-term loss of trees. 

Adult emerald ash borer on a penny

The research paper is an analysis of the effects of emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) damage to North American ash trees. Emerald ash borer is a green beetle native to Asia, and was introduced to North America in 2002. It causes significant damage to all North American ash species and an infestation can kill a mature tree within four years. For this study, Donovan et al. looked at human mortality data from 1296 counties across the 15 states where there were confirmed emerald ash borer infestations in 2010. (more…)

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