Spread by Trade and Climate, Bugs Butcher America’s Forests

FILE – In this July 19, 2007 file photo, a gypsy moth caterpillar crawls along partially eaten leaves of a tree in Trenton, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

PETERSHAM, Mass. (AP) — The scourge of insect pests is expected to put almost two-thirds of America’s forests at risk over the next decade.

The problem is projected to cost several billion dollars every year for dead tree removal and jeopardize longstanding U.S. industries that rely on timber.

Forests from New England to the West Coast are jeopardized by invasive pests that defoliate and kill trees. Scientists say they’re driving some tree species toward extinction and causing billions of dollars a year in damage.

The pests include the Hemlock woolly adelgid, emerald ash borer and gypsy moth. Their spread is aided by global trade, warming climate and drought.

Scientists are working on strategies to combat the problem, such as genetically altering trees to resist the pests or planting jeopardized tree species in more hospitable climates.

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