Linking tree growth rate, damage repair, and susceptibility to a genus-specific pest infestation
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Pest preference and subsequent susceptibility of a host individual is likely related to previous growth patterns in that host. Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) is a pestiferous beetle introduced to North America from Asia. While all species of ash are susceptible to attack, some individual trees appear to survive infestation. We selected ash trees in southeastern Michigan, collected cores and categorized trees as high tolerance to emerald ash borer attack (high overall health, low crown dieback), low tolerance (low overall health, high crown dieback) and intermediate tolerance (in-between the other categories). We artificially wounded trees and measured wound closure after 3 years. Ring width indices were not correlated between high and low tolerance trees. Regression slopes comparing growth and years were significantly different between the three tolerance categories, with high tolerance trees having the steepest slope. Wound closure was greatest in high tolerance trees. High tolerance trees demonstrating more rapid (steeper regression slope), consistent (lower variance), and effective (greater wound closure) growth. Those vigorously growing trees likely had more capacity to repair damage caused by emerald ash borer, leading to healthier trees in our categorization. Linking previous host growth patterns to health may have implications related to identifying individual trees potentially tolerant to attack.