Rhode Island is definitely the smallest state in the United States. It may not be large when it comes to land area but its lush forests and vegetation are arguably second to none in the country. However, there’s a growing concern over the past couple of years that the forests on Rhode Island, particularly the maple trees are dying on an alarming rate. It’s not just maple trees though that are dying, but also other deciduous trees such as dogwoods, lindens, oaks, and sycamores.
What caused these trees to die on such an alarming rate?
There are many factors that caused the maple and other deciduous trees in Rhode Island to die, but the main reason for why this is happening is due to the invasion of gypsy moth caterpillars and other insects. These insects, particularly the gypsy moth caterpillars, has killed a quarter’s worth of trees on the state.
Gypsy moth caterpillars have ravaged forests not just in Rhode Island but also in other New England states which includes Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. These are pests that are capable of stripping a tree. Gypsy moth caterpillars can eat up all the leaves of trees and plants especially during summer time.
It’s not only these pests and insects that are responsible for the death of countless trees in Rhode Island. Prolonged drought in the area also aided the deaths of trees in the state. The drought has severely weakened the trees and starved them from nourishment.
What’s the extent of the damage to the tree health in RI?
To make things worse, it’s not only Rhode Island that is expected to see its forests dying over the next couple of years. All the states on the northeast are expected to be affected by these leaf-eating insects if nothing is to be done. Leaf-eating pests, like gypsy moth caterpillars who relies on their tree diet to survive, are an invasive species. They will continue to spread if their number becomes out of check.
The government has been trying to keep their number in check by using a virus that kills these leaf-eating caterpillars. But sometimes, when the proper conditions are met, these leaf-eating caterpillars will thrive and ravage oaks, maples, sycamores, lindens, etc. just to sustain their tree diet
The local government of RI estimated that about a quarter of the state’s deciduous forest has been ravaged by leaf-eating caterpillars over the last 3 years..Countless trees are left naked as all their leaves are stripped off by pests and insects. The damage is so bad that it can even be seen from space as satellite images revealed the extent of the devastation.
As of now, the local government is working hand-on-hand with private sectors and other non-government organizations in the state to restore these dying forests and help control the population of gypsy moth caterpillars in the area.