GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers, who have already seen ambrosia beetles damage part of Florida’s avocado crop, know that more of the species will come from Asia in the next decade. Anticipating their arrival, UF/IFAS researchers set up a hypothetical invasion of the beetle, and found out that loblolly pine owners in the South could lose up to $17 billion in trees in 20 years.
Private companies use loblolly for timber production. Small landowners also harvest and sell some of their loblolly pines, said Andres Susaeta, a research assistant scientist in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. But small landowners are also interested in aesthetics, preserving the environment and passing the land on to their heirs.
For the study, researchers wanted to look at the economic impact of anticipated invasions of more ambrosia beetles from Asia into the southern United States. Invasive wood borers, such as the ambrosia beetle, transmit disease-carrying fungi to several North American trees, and it’s not clear whether trees such as pines will face similar threats in the future, the researchers said.
Even though the scenarios were hypothetical, Andres Susaeta, a research assistant scientist in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation, said the situation could be all too real.