Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Bug infestation coming North

The Plattsburgh State Wildlife Club is bringing attention to an insect, the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, which could affect the Adirondack Mountains in the near future.

The club will show the film “The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid: a Film About the Loss of an Ecosystem” in Hudson 106 Monday at 7 p.m. Its goal is to educate the campus and community of this invasive species.

“It is affecting the ecosystems and how species interact. It is inhibiting the growth of other species,” junior and co-president of Wildlife Club Lindsey Austin said. “If nothing is done about it, we are definitely going to feel the effects, and it’s better to let people know about it before it gets any further than it has.”

Austin said it is a problem that ecologists and scientists, as well as students, are trying to solve. She said it is interesting how an invasive species can affect an entire ecosystem, and that is what the film is about.

Fellow co-president Chad Hammer said the group wanted to extend the event to the Plattsburgh community to raise awareness because it is a problem in New York State.

“We have to protect our forests in the Adirondack area from this,” Hammer said. “It is important because the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is a large invasive species that is causing mass destruction.”

Hammer said it is important for people to understand the threat of this organism and how to be proactive to prevent its spread.

PSUC Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Jacob Straub said the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is an insect that is fatal to Eastern Hemlock trees, and it has great potential to move from southern New York, where they currently are located, to Adirondack parks.

“We could lose one of our most common and picturesque trees in the Adirondacks,” Straub said. “Hemlocks were cut over extensively in the 1800s, when forests were clearcut, and they are making a comeback now. Those trees are definitely alive and well in the park, and this insect has the potential to wipe it out.”

Straub said biodiversity is important for students to understand, in terms of how diverse ecosystems are. He said there are many different species of trees and forests, and if some are lost, that is a big deal.

After the film showing, Straub will be leading a discussion of the film and a question-and-answer session. He said he hopes the event involves good student involvement and feedback.

“Tree diseases and insects are nothing new to our forests, but when we run into problems with forest health is when we have non-native species coming in, and this is a classic case,” Straub said. “I do expect people to be concerned. The follow up would be, ‘What can we do about it?’ That is the bigger question.”

He said people should be worried about what could happen. Straub said the insect has completely eradicated the Eastern Hemlock tree from parts of the East Coast.

“It is an opportunity to learn about something that you’ve never heard about or experienced,” Austin said. “Even if you aren’t an environmental sciences major, it is a good opportunity to learn and leave maybe being able to help the problem.”

Email Lisa Scivolette at fuse@cardinalpointsonline.com

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