In Britain, which has up to 2 million chestnut trees, a 2007 survey showed that up to half could be infected with the disease. In countries like Belgium, France and the Netherlands, the alarm has also been raised.The Great Chestnut Trees of Europe Are Dying (Yahoo!)
There is historical precedent for the fears: At the turn of the 20th century a fungus caused a mass extinction of the American chestnut tree in the eastern United States.
Europe's chestnuts came first from the Balkans and were introduced in western Europe about 500 years ago. It is a hallmark of cities rather than forests and, especially during the Victorian era, became a favorite for stately lanes, parks and squares.
In Ghent, Belgium, last month, a huge chestnut suddenly collapsed along the upper Scheldt river, smashing a car along a road usually busy with cycling students. As in many places, city councils have been increasingly checking the health of chestnuts and, if there's any doubt, cut them down as a safety precaution.
The chestnuts are all gone this summer from the city's Groentenmarkt medieval center, depriving weary tourists of reprieve from the sun.
In Amsterdam, officials are scrambling to try to save chestnuts within the famed canal belt. For Anne Frank's tree, help came too late. The 150-year-old tree, affected by the moth and fungi, weakened progressively and crashed to the ground two years ago.
If the darkest predictions prove true, many Britons will mourn chestnut trees as the passing of part of their youth: The game of "conkers," in which children take turns trying to smash chestnuts, was once a popular pastime on playgrounds across the country.
Just as bad for chestnuts is the way people deal with the problem: On Ghent's Groentenmarkt, the new trees are now linden, and the example is followed in many parts of Europe.
"Many local authorities are then no longer planting horse chestnut trees because they fear — what is the point in planting something that is going to be susceptible to attack," Evans said.
"Essentially, we could lose an entire new generation of horse chestnut trees."
Closer to home:
MILWAUKEE -- Emerald ash borers have been found in the city of Milwaukee for the first time, and officials warned Friday that the invasive pest has the potential to kill off the city's estimated 587,000 ash trees.Emerald ash borers found in Milwaukee for first time (Twin Cities Pioneer Press)
More than a dozen infested trees have been confirmed on the northwest side of Milwaukee, city and state officials said. A specialist with the state agriculture department identified adult beetles Thursday after a city crew noticed several distressed trees, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
"The whole city is at risk," said David Sivyer, Milwaukee's forestry services manager.
Ash make up about 17 percent of Milwaukee's tree population.
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