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UNB forestry students help City of Fredericton prepare for possible arrival of destructive green beetle

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Mar 20, 2018

Category: myUNB , UNB Fredericton

A group of 12 fourth-year students from the University of New Brunswick’s faculty of forestry and environmental management has created a contingency plan for nine parks and trails in the City of Fredericton should damaging emerald ash borer beetles find their way to the province.

The little green bugs have decimated the ash tree population throughout southern Ontario. Though they have not yet been detected in New Brunswick, the bugs have quickly travelled from Ontario to Winnipeg and Quebec City.

The group believes it is only a matter of time before the beetles reach the forests of New Brunswick, likely ferried in on firewood.

“These are very efficient bugs,” says student and group member Sacha Gascoigne. “It only takes a few of them, and then you have a problem.”

Once the beetles are detected in an area, nearly every untreated ash tree dies within six years. “In the end, the trees become brittle and unpredictable. They can come crashing down with no warning,” says another member of the team, Marnie Demand. “This could be extremely hazardous for people and infrastructure.”

The UNB group is suggesting that the city set sticky pheromone traps and monitor the nine areas as a precaution. If and when the beetles are detected, the group would like to see the city implement its plan, and inject healthy ash trees with a pesticide that would ward off the troublesome bugs. Ms. Demand says the injections will help lower the potential for human injury and damage to public and private property.

Though treatment options to ward off the bugs are limited and costly, the team believes that a proactive, rather than reactive, approach will save the city money in the long run.

“I don’t think people are aware of the magnitude of what this problem could be,” says Ms. Gascoigne. Between seven and eight per cent of trees in the parks and trails surveyed by the group are ash, and while those numbers aren’t particularly high, Ms. Gascoigne believes that, if infested, the effects will be devastating.

The group’s plan, Two Steps Forward: An Urban Forest Management Plan for Fredericton’s Parks and Trails, was developed for this year’s 4020 Capstone Practicum along with seven other groups. They will present their projects on April 6, 2018 in the Forestry and Geography Building on UNB’s Fredericton campus, second- and third-floor hallways in rooms 203, 305 and 309, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

In addition to the management plan, the group has created an inventory of every tree in nine of the city’s parks, noting each tree’s size, species, health, value, and GPS location.

The plan also includes a pruning management schedule to help maintain trees in good health. “A maintenance schedule will give the trees a longer, healthier life,” says Ms. Gascoigne.

“The relationship between UNB forestry students and the City of Fredericton is invaluable,” says the group’s faculty adviser, Jasen Golding. “The students are provided with a great opportunity to put their skills and knowledge to work acquired over the four-year program for a real client with real needs.”

Mr. Golding says that the City of Fredericton has been instrumental in this partnership, helping students to work on real problems faced by graduates.

Media contact: Hilary Creamer Robinson

Photo: Two Steps Forward: An Urban Forest Management Plan for Fredericton’s Parks and Trails group member Sacha Gascoigne, a fourth-year forestry student at UNB, measures a tree. Credit: Marnie Demand