Factors affecting the survival of ash (Fraxinus spp.) trees infested by emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis)
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- Knight, K.S., Brown, J.P. & Long, R.P. Biol Invasions (2013) 15: 371. doi:10.1007/s10530-012-0292-z
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Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) (EAB), an Asian woodboring beetle accidentally introduced in North America, has killed millions of ash (Fraxinus spp.) trees and is spreading rapidly. This study examined the effects of tree- and site-level factors on the mortality of ash trees in stands infested by EAB in OH, USA. Our data show that ash populations in forested sites can progress from healthy to almost complete mortality of mature trees within 6 years. Although the end result of nearly complete mortality does not vary, survival analysis with 5 years of data showed that some factors affected the rate of mortality. We found more rapid mortality in stands with lower densities of ash trees. This finding supports an extension of the resource dilution hypothesis whereby concentration of EAB on few trees in low ash density areas leads to rapid decline of these trees. This contradicts an extension of the resource concentration theory that greater host density increases relative pest abundance and host mortality. Although reductions in ash density via diversification may be desirable for other silvicultural, conservation, and management objectives in preparation for EAB, our study shows that the management strategy of reducing ash density is unlikely to protect the remaining ash trees. Survival analysis also showed that mortality was more rapid for trees shaded by other trees and for trees initially exhibiting dieback. In management scenarios where hazard tree removal must be spread over several years due to budget constraints, focusing initial tree removal on stressed trees is recommended.