Opinion | An Invasive Insect Threatens Delmarva Westlands – The New York Times

“On the Delmarva Peninsula, the low-lying expanse of coastal plain that bulges east from the Chesapeake Bay, some of the last remaining sizable green and wild spaces are wetland forests that shroud tidal rivers and creeks on their languid journeys toward the bay: the Nanticoke, the Marshyhope, the Choptank, the Tuckahoe, the Pocomoke.

As hard as it may be to believe in this long-settled part of the world, made up of Delaware and the Eastern Shore counties of Maryland and Virginia, many of these forests remain virtually unexplored natural wonders. They are home to an explosive diversity of trees, shrubs and understory plants shaped by the rhythmic undulations of the tides, including rare and threatened species such as red turtlehead and seaside alder. They are havens for salamanders, lizards, woodpeckers, herons and more. The distinctive hill-and-hummock topography creates shallow pools where small fish shelter and forage; these fish feed bigger ones sought by fishermen and women.

The hummock-building power of ash trees is on display in a forest near the Tuckahoe Creek. Emerald ash borer damage is visible near the bases of trees.

The hummock-building power of ash trees is on display in a forest near the Tuckahoe Creek. Emerald ash borer damage is visible near the bases of trees.

One tree makes these wetlands possible: The ash. But now these trees face a formidable adversary. A few years ago, a small beetle showed up and started to change everything: the emerald ash borer, originally from Asia, was most likely a stowaway on a container ship and was first discovered in Michigan in 2002. It is now found in 35 states and was confirmed on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 2015. This invasive insect has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the United States and threatens millions more in its continuing path of destruction. On the Delmarva, it could upend entire ecosystems.”