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Non-Native Insects Costing Local Governments, Homeowners

Emerald ash borer (David Cappaert, Michigan State Univ.)

Emerald ash borer (David Cappaert, Michigan State Univ.)

Scientists from U.S. and Canadian universities and the U.S. Forest Service built a statistical model to compute the cost of damage caused by invasive tree-feeding insects that are inadvertently imported to the U.S. The team from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at University of California in Santa Barbara published their findings on Friday in the journal PLOS One.

The NCEAS team of biologists and economists say non-native, wood-boring insects such as the emerald ash borer (pictured right) and the Asian longhorned beetle are imported into the U.S. with packing materials, live plants, and other goods. They calculate that the insects are costing each year local governments some $1.7 billion in out-of-pocket expenditures and homeowners about $830 million in lost property values.

The model developed by the researchers, which can be applied outside the U.S., calculates the economic damage in five cost categories: federal governmental expenditures, local governmental expenditures, household expenditures, residential property value losses, and timber value losses to forest landowners. They applied this model to three species of invasive insects, but it can be applied to other types of pests and other natural resource issues, such as fire, disease, and water quality.

Among their other findings, the NCEAS team calculated a 32 percent risk that a new borer would invade in the next 10 years, causing even more damage than previous borers. The researchers also estimated that foliage feeders and sap feeders cause an some $410 million and $260 million, respectively, in lost residential property value each year.

“The regulations we currently have aren’t keeping the pests out,” says Juliann Aukema, NECEAS scientist and first author of the paper.  “We need to strengthen regulations and enforcement of them to protect our forests and our economy.”

Read more: U.S., Greece Collaborate on Invasive Weed Defense

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