North Carolina is one of the states hardest hit by invasive forest pests, according to a report from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
Part of the problem is global trade is bringing new insects and diseases that are devastating native trees, said Gary Lovett, the study’s lead author.
"The more goods that we bring in, the more pests we're going bring with them," Lovett said. "This problem is going to get worse and worse, unless we focus on prevention, which is stopping the pests from getting into the country in the first place, rather than trying to deal with them once they're here."
State agriculture officials first detected the Emerald Ash Borer in North Carolina in 2013.
And last September, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services issued a statewide EAB quarantine, meaning that any part of an ash tree, including firewood, cannot be moved from a quarantine area into an area outside the quarantine.
Lovett said on a larger scale, a solution is to replace wooden packing crates with plastic or plywood materials insects can't drill into. He also wants to limit the import of some plant species.
"After they're here, the cost of dealing with them is primarily on homeowners and on local governments," Lovett said. "That's not where the costs should be. The cost should be on the importers and shipper that are doing the trade."
Destruction caused by invasive forest species in the U.S. is an estimated $2 billion dollars each year, according to Lovett, adding that stricter trade policies are needed to halt the import of new pests.
His study was published in the journal Ecological Applications.