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U.S. forests under attack by foreign pests

Dec. 6, 2010 at 8:10 PM   |   Comments

ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Foreign pests are attacking America's national forests, destroying natural treasures and costing taxpayers millions of dollars, a study says.

Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Michigan State University, the University of Central Florida and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service analyzed the impact of invasive insects and pathogens introduced into the United States through 2007, a UCF release said Monday.

They found more than 455 insects and 16 pathogens that are destroying everything from oak trees in California to redbay trees in Central Florida.

Based on their findings, the researchers say they predict one especially destructive pest will sneak into the nation every two years.

"Entire forests are being wiped out, and it is costing taxpayers millions as the government tries to eradicate invaders that threaten industries dependent on trees and plants," Betsy Von Holle, a UCF biologist who worked on the project, says. "We're losing a variety of native species as a result of importing these pests. It's not just aesthetics. It's impacting our economy."

These pests and diseases sneak are coming into the United States on everything from or plant imports to the wooden pallets used to transport products ranging from building supplies to electronic goods and toilet paper, the scientists say.

"Global trade has had tremendous benefits for Americans," Juliann Aukema of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara says. "Unfortunately, it also has resulted in the introduction of destructive insects and other organisms that threaten native ecosystems and the services they provide."

"Once here, these invasive species are virtually impossible to stop," Von Holle says.

© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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