By Kim Loenhart
Can an invasive beetle kill our trees and steal our bicycles? It seems like an unlikely idea straight out of a science fiction movie. However, a new study published in the journal, Landscape and Urban Planning, might convince you. The study suggests that emerald ash borer infestations, and their related tree loss, may increase crime rates, such as theft, in urban neighbourhoods.
The study investigated infestations of emerald ash borer (EAB) in Cincinnati, Ohio and examined the crime rates of city blocks with high tree loss due to EAB infestation. The researchers found that as tree deaths increased, crime rates significantly increased as well. Ultimately, more tree loss may cause more crime, such as thefts, assaults and break-ins. So, the emerald ash borer may not just steal a neighbourhood’s trees, but it may also impact the community’s safety.
But why would tree loss impact community safety? The authors suggest that tree loss in neighbourhoods may have the same effect as broken windows or vacant boarded up buildings in a neighbourhood; dead or dying trees show a lack of care, concern, or vigilance and could invite crime.
The study supports what we at Tree Ottawa have known for years: trees impact the health and well-being of our communities in many important ways. While healthy trees can have significant positive impacts on a community, dead or dying trees can have negative social implications for neighbourhoods.
These negative consequences are concerning given that emerald ash borer infestations are estimated to have killed more than 100 million trees in North America, according to the study’s authors. That’s a shocking number of trees lost and properties at risk.
We can help to minimize the loss of trees and the associated negative consequences by planting more diverse tree canopies. Diversifying tree species will help to strengthen and protect tree lots from invasive pests, like the emerald ash borer. Who knows, healthy trees may help keep our bikes safe too!
You can find the full scientific study here: http://www.treesintrouble.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Cincytreescrime16.pdf
Kondo, M.C., Han, S., Donovan, G.H., & MacDonald, J.M. (2017). The association between urban trees and crime: Evidence from the spread of the emerald ash borer in Cincinnati. Landscape and Urban Planning 157, 193-199. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2016.07.003