Researchers say ecosystem of beech trees are in danger

Researchers say ecosystem of beech trees are in danger

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new threat to trees in the mid-Atlantic region could be far worse than the spotted lanternfly. Beeches are common in Philadelphia and are attacked by a tiny beetle that is deadly.

Scientists say a delicate ecosystem could be at risk.

The majestic copper beech is threatened by a microscopic threat called the nematode. It attacks beeches throughout the Northeast, endangering millions of trees.

“The biggest reason we’re concerned about it is that it kills the young trees,” said Jason Parker.

Parker, an arborist, says beech leaf disease is relatively new and likely bird-borne. And it’s usually easy to spot on the leaves.

“It should be pretty obvious because the stripping is going to look really obvious,” Parker said. “It will be between the veins, you will see streaks that are colorless and lighter.”

The tree disease isn’t a direct threat to humans, but doctors say trees are crucial in ridding the air of pollution.


“It’s a human health problem,” said Jean Epiphan.

Epiphan, a researcher at Rutgers University, says that beech trees not only purify the air but also provide an important food source for animals and shade to cool off.

“Beech provides abundant and very important ecosystem services,” Epiphan said. “It causes an epidemic to appear.”

Because it is a new disease, researchers don’t know much about the disease and there is currently no widely accepted treatment.

But pruning trees and keeping them healthy can help prevent infection.

“It’s concerning when there’s such a high proportion of beech trees in our forests,” Parker said.

He says beeches are also widespread in urban settings and suburban neighborhoods, where they are an important part of the ecosystem.

Researchers say the disease appears to only affect beech trees at this point and there’s no indication it will hurt people who are near or touching the trees.

Stephanie Stahl