Des Plaines IL Fights to Save the Native Ash Tree in Attempt to Save Biodiversity

by Lauren Nichols for SUST 210

Des Plaines, Illinois, is home to an enormous amount of biodiversity. With the Des Plaines River running through the town, the number of species of resident animals, plants, and other organisms is extremely high and still on the rise. The Des Plaines Park District is responsible for caring for and tending to much of the biodiversity that resides in parks and other green areas in the town.

Traces of the Emerald Ash Borer (photo: Univ New Hampshire)

Traces of the Emerald Ash Borer
(photo: Univ New Hampshire)

The ash tree, both green and white, is one species among the 3,500 trees that the Park District cares for. Many of these trees are also Illinois native species. Unfortunately, the ash trees have been under attack by the Emerald Ash Borer, an insect from Asia. According to EmeraldAshBorer.info, a website dedicated to informing the public on the latest news involving this insect, this is not a problem that is restricted to Illinois’ cities. The ssh tree is being affected in other states as well including Michigan, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, and others where the tree is a native. The larvae of this insect feed on the bark of the tree, preventing the tree from transporting water or nutrients.

The insect was first detected in 2006 and the first confirmed infestation in Des Plaines was on January 27, 2010, in the forest preserves at Devon and River Road. In order to control the infestation, dozens of trees on public property are being cut down to control the pandemic. According to the landscape maintenance supervisor Steve Krotz, the best and most effective way to conserve the trees is to inject them with an insecticide. Krotz notes how the insecticide is injected into the trunk to kill the insect. The treatment can take 4 to 6 weeks to distribute throughout the tree and effective ways to help conserve the trees are creating optimum soil conditions and providing superficial feeding.

It is important for the town of Des Plaines to continue to treat the infected trees to save this native species. Of the 3,500 trees in the town, a major percentage of them are Illinois natives. If the town does not take initiative to save the ash trees from infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer, the trees can die leaving all of the organisms who live in or benefit from the trees in their ecosystem at risk. The future of Des Plaines’ biodiversity depends greatly on saving the ssh tree since it does in fact constitute about 30% of all trees in Des Plaines. According to Krotz, Des Plaines will be applying in 2014 for a grant that will replace every tree that has perished from this infestation. This is another conservation act, among many others, to attempt to save the Ash tree as well as Des Plaines’ biodiversity.

Each week during the Fall 2013 semester, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 210 Sustainable Future online class at Roosevelt University will contribute blog posts on suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

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About Suburban Sustainability

Founder and editor of the Schaumburg's Sustainability Future social media project (est. Earth Day, 2011)
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