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New Invasive Killer of Beech Trees Found in Bolton

New Invasive Killer of Beech Trees Found in Bolton August 10, 2023
Photo of the trail along Edgecomb Pond where DEC Forest Technicians found BLD.
The trail along Edgecomb Pond where DEC Forest Technicians found BLD.

Beech Leaf Disease, first detected at the western edge of the Adirondack Park in 2022, has spread to the Lake George watershed.

Forest Health technicians from the Department of Environmental Conservation discovered a Beech Leaf Disease infestation along a trail on Bolton’s Edgecomb Pond property in late July, Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover said.

The technicians were surveying the Cat and Thomas Mountains section of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, a DEC official told Conover.

Beech Leaf Disease (BLD) will kill mature trees in six to ten years and saplings in as little as two years, according to the DEC.

Scientists associate BLD with a particular species of worm, but according to the Nature Conservancy-based Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) “no one knows for sure if the worm is the full cause.”

“Scientists are uncertain as to what causes it, how it spreads, and how to manage it,” said Shaun Kittle of APIPP.

“Many American beech trees are already heavily impacted by beech bark disease, but Beech Leaf Disease appears to be an even bigger threat,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The decline of beech in New York could have far-reaching consequences, including significant changes to the composition of our northern hardwood forests and the loss of a valuable food source for wildlife, from birds to bears.”

“The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program’s forest pest research assistant will be doing additional surveys in the Edgecomb Pond area to help us better determine the extent of the infestation,” said APIPP Terrestrial Invasive Species Project Coordinator Becca Bernacki. “The most important thing we can do at this point is to gather as much data as possible.”

DEC’s Forest Health technicians will also monitor this site, DEC officials told Supervisor Conover.

BLD spreads quickly across the landscape, said APIPP’s Becca Bernacki.

“The presence of BLD was first confirmed in New York’s Westchester and Rockland counties in 2019; since then, its symptoms—which include dark striping between the leaf veins, leaf curling, and a leathery leaf texture—have been found on beech trees throughout that region,” said Bernacki.

Once a forest stand is infected, no single individual tree is left untouched, said Brent Boscarino, Coordinator of the Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM).

Beech Leaf Disease is one of three new nonnative terrestrial pests have emerged to threaten the forests of the Lake George watershed, along with Hemlock Wooly Adelgid and Emerald Ash Borer.

Beech Bark Disease established itself much earlier, though it was discovered on Dome Island less than twenty years ago. (For decades, it was thought that Dome’s isolated location and protected status had inoculated it against the disease.)

Speaking at the Adirondack Invasive Species Summit on October 19, 2022, an event sponsored by APIPP and held in Blue Mountain Lake, the late Dr. Gary Lovett said that “almost every beech tree in the Adirondacks shows some evidence of Beech Bark Disease.”

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