The Spotted Lanternfly Threatens Forests and Agriculture

The spotted lanternfly (lycorma delicatula)  is an invasive insect first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014.   The adults are one and a half inches long.   The abdomen is yellow with black bars, the forewing is gray and speckled black, and the hind wing is bright red with a white stripe in the middle and the black tip.   The nymphs are black with white spots.  They are confirmed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and Delaware.  They have been detected in Connecticut, Maryland, and New York, though an entire population has not been confirmed in these states   It is believed that egg masses arrived in the U.S. via a shipment and were not detected.

They are native to China, India, and southern Asia.   They feed on sap, which depletes the nutrients in trees, especially in high density.   They attack a large number of species,    which includes apples, plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, almonds, grapes, maples, oaks, pines, walnuts, poplars, willows, sycamores, and the tree of heaven.  According to Heather Leach, the Extension Associate for the Department of Entomology for Pennsylvania State University, few trees have died as a result of infestation, but some such as the black walnut, red maple, and silver maple have shown signs of stress.  Leach said it was too soon to tell what effect the stress was having on trees, but she “expected” they would have a harder time recovering, especially in unfavorable weather conditions.   She also said some trees were “oozing”  and researchers were “paying close attention to trees showing stress.”  As to whether certain species were more susceptible than others, Leach said not much is known about the lanternfly’s preferences and that they appear to be dependent on what is available.   She also said, however, that there was some evidence that they were attracted to black walnut, river birch, grapes, hops, silver maple, red maple, sycamore, and willow.

The symptoms of infestation include weeping wounds, grayish or black trails of sap, and egg masses that have a gray covering that can appear dry and cracked.  In the fall adults congregate on tree trunks and lay eggs in late September on trunks, branches, stones, and other smooth surfaces.  The egg masses generally contain 30-50 eggs that are an inch long.   They are gray and covered in a waxy material that dries and cracks.  The nymphs hatch in the spring and mature in the summer.

Management options include removing host trees, creating traps by spraying trees with insecticide, putting sticky bands on trees, and scraping off egg masses.  Leach said that insecticide has been the most effective management tool to date, though sticky bands and removing egg masses may help to reduce populations locally.  She also said that not much is known about what preys on the spotted lanternfly in its native range, but researchers have found several parasitic wasps  that were promising biological control and are currently in a quarantine facility for potential release in the U. S.  She stated that the best way to prevent the spread was to report it, so they could be killed when found in new areas.

With the almost constant movement of people and goods, it is nearly inevitable that there will be unwanted passengers and sometimes these passengers can do enormous harm.   The spotted lanternfly is no exception.  Nevertheless, reporting signs of infestation and following quarantines can go a long way to reducing the effects on farms, forests, and ecosystems.

California Tropical Forest Standard Looks For Comprehensive Solutions

Lush, green, and home to half the world’s species.  Preserving rainforests has long been considered an environmental priority.  But what if setting aside rainforest land could also be a solution for other environmental problems?   Through the process of photosynthesis, plants release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.  Deforestation both reduces habitat and also affects the planet’s ability to reduce carbon emissions.

The California Air Resources Board, which is a 16 member board that oversees air quality for the state of California, has set up regulatory guidelines for both state and international governments which will reduce deforestation and work with local communities.    These jurisdictions are referred to as sector programs.

Dave Clegern, the Public Information Officer For Climate Programs, said that the sector program could be a state, national organization, or national government.   Even though the California Air Resources Board is based in California, they do partner with other governments.   He said that the program was a set of guidelines which could be adopted by a number of jurisdictions.   He explained that the way the program worked was that a certain area of rainforest would be set aside for carbon sequestration and would involve the local population directly in the project.   Clegern said that many government projects in the past have not done involved local populations.

The Revised California Tropical Forest Standard Criteria For Assessing Jurisdiction Scale Programs That Reduce Emissions From Tropical Deforestation published in September 2018  is a report which outlines how sector plans would work.  The report states that one credit is equal to one metric ton of carbon dioxide.   Once emissions reductions are reached, credits would be issued by the implementing jurisdiction.   Reports would be filed that document that emissions reductions have been reached and these are done by each sector.  This report must be independently verified by experts in forestry, biometrics, cultural anthropology, human rights, or related field.  If credits are found to be in error, they would be invalidated and the holder would be responsible for the replacement of those credits.

Clegern said he believes the program will be effective, though it still needs to be adopted.   Our planet faces a number of environmental issues.  However, looking for solutions that are innovative, comprehensive, and involve local populations can go a long way to creating long-term solutions.





Wind Power or Fossil Fuels: Facing up to the Impacts of Our Energy Usage

The previous two articles have looked at different aspects of wind power.  The first one focused on the potential of wind power as an energy source and the second one looked at environmental impacts.  It cited examples of birds and bats being killed as a result of flying into turbines.  In the case of bats their lungs can collapse or explode when flying near turbines due to changes in barometric pressure.  Terrestrial species can also be impacted when turbines are placed near food sources or forests are fragmented during installation.  Nevertheless, if investments are not made in wind power and other renewable energy sources, the alternative is fossil fuels which also pose serious environmental hazards.

The two most common fossil fuel producers of electricity are natural gas and coal.  Coal, which is the second highest producer of electricity, emits mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and methane.  According to a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists of December 2017, coal plants produce 42% of mercury emissions.  Mercury can damage the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, and also threaten child development.  Sulphur dioxide forms acidic particles which is linked to asthma,   bronchitis, and acid rain.  Nitrogen oxides irritate lung tissue, exacerbate asthma and make people more susceptible to respiratory illnesses.   Carbon dioxide is the main byproduct of coal and is the main driver of global warming.  Approximately 10% of U.S. methane emissions come from coal mining and it is 34 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping heat over a 100 year period.

According to data from the U. S. Energy Administration, natural gas produced 32% of U. S. electricity for 2017 and was the highest source.   Natural gas is frequently cited as cleaner than coal.    However, according to “No, Natural Gas Power Plants Are Not Clean” Mark Specht, Energy Analyst for Climate and Energy Programs at the  Union of Concerned Scientists, November 2018, natural gas also has a number of problems.  The article states that natural gas produces less global warming emissions than coal, but than coal is the dirtiest fuel and from that perspective, natural gas is better by comparison.  The main pollutant from natural gas is nitrogen oxide (NOx), which causes respiratory problems.   It also reacts with other substances to produce particulate matter and ozone, which cause shortness of breath, heart attacks, and premature death.

Regardless of what energy source is used,  there will always be environmental impacts and these concerns need to be taken seriously.  However, taking appropriate measures to avoid wildlife conflicts and reducing energy usage can go a long way to creating an energy source that has minimal impacts on the environment.  Both Margaret Fowle, a Conservation Biologist with VT Audobon, and Jeff Parsons a Conservation Biologist with Arrowwood Environmental,  stated that we should continue to invest in wind power.   Fowle said “proper siting, proper management and the ability to turn turbines off during migration times” were needed and it was an  “important part of mitigating climate change.”

Parsons said “We should continue to invest in wind power because seeing the negative impacts helps us to think twice about our own energy expenditure.  If we continually displace impact we will never face up to its impact on the Earth.”