WXXI AM News

Trees struggling in Monroe County

Jul 16, 2019

Mark Quinn of the Monroe County Parks Department points out the fluffy, white bumps that signify the presence of Hemlock woolly adelgid.
Credit Veronica Volk / WXXI News

A recent study says that planting a trillion trees across the globe could help reduce enough carbon to offset climate change.

But locally, invasive species threaten the forests we already have.

Mark Quinn is a horticulturist with the Monroe County Parks Department. He says they plant thousands of trees every year, but that doesn’t even touch what they’re losing.

"If you look at the white fuzzy bug on the bottom of your hemlock tree, that’s the hemlock woolly adelgid. It’s pretty easy to recognize," he says as he points to the white dots on a tree branch.

Within these little balls are bugs essentially sucking the life out of the tree. An untreated hemlock tree has only a few years to live after being introduced to the hemlock woolly adelgid.

And there’s more -- Quinn points to a line of tall, bare trees on the edge of a wooded area.

"Those are ash, that are being killed by the emerald ash borer."

Quinn estimates ash trees make up about a quarter of forests in Monroe County. Losing them is inevitable, and devastating to local parks.

Scientists from Cornell say there could be a relationship between warmer winters caused by climate change, and these invasive species, but admit it's hard to draw a direct line of cause and effect.

But drought and climate change are threatening forests across the country, from the iconic Joshua trees in California to 2,000-year-old cypress trees in North Carolina.

Quinn says even though it appears they’re losing more trees than they can plant here in Monroe County, tree-planting efforts are not futile. He says the parks department is planting new, different trees species that are resistant to invasive and expected to flourish in the area -- like white oaks, sycamores, and red maples.