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Can We Identify Invasive Species Before They Invade?

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Specimens of emerald ash borers, which feed on ash trees.

New models can predict patterns of damage by invasive insects that attack North American trees.

Credit: Carl D. Walsh/Getty Images

Researchers at the University of Georgia, Dartmouth College, and Western Carolina University have developed models for predicting patterns of damage by invasive insects that attack North American trees.

The researchers focused on 58 non-native insects that feed on one or more of 49 species of North American conifers.

The researchers compiled a database of the trees' ecological traits, and the native and non-native insects that consume them; they found a crucial relationship between the trees most damaged by non-native insects and those the insects fed on in their native ecosystem.

Another model found shade-tolerant and drought-intolerant trees were most susceptible to non-native insect damage, while a third model showed that conifers possessing defenses against native insects were more likely to tolerate invasions of closely related non-native insects.

In combination, the researchers said, these models can retroactively forecast which non-native species will become damaging, with more than 90% accuracy, so they are confident the model can predict potential damage by future insect invaders.

From Scientific American
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Abstracts Copyright © 2019 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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