Mysterious Invasive Insects Are Damaging Louisiana’s Rural Ecosystem

Mysterious Invasive Insects Are Damaging Louisiana’s Rural Ecosystem

The coast of Louisiana has taken a beating within the last decade. Oil spills, hurricanes, rising sea levels and now insects are damaging Louisiana’s coastal ecosystem. The vegetation along the coast has been largely destroyed by insects. Scientists are not exactly sure which insects are responsible for the ecological damage occurring in Louisiana, but they are nearly positive that the insects are invasive.

What used to be vast landscapes of marsh grass on Louisiana’s coast has turned into muddy ground containing high amounts of standing water. The insects are eating all of the roseau cane plants that cover the coast. Roseau cane is a reed that grows over hundreds of miles along the state’s coastline. Luckily, researchers are familiar with the tiny insects that are causing this damage. The insect was first observed in 2016, and it came at a bad time for the state of Louisiana. For the past several years, researchers have determined that Louisiana’s coastline has been disappearing at a rate of ten square miles each year. The growth of roseau cane slows this process, but now an invasive insect is eating away the reed.

Nobody knows how or when the invasive insect arrived in Louisiana. It was not until last April that experts were able to identify the insect pest. The insect species that is destroying Louisiana’s coastline is known as Nipponaclerda biwakoensis, but it is more commonly known as the scale insect. Unfortunately, by the time the invasive insects were identified, they had already spread across the Mississippi Delta where they have destroyed nearly all of the marshland.

For the past few decades, officials in Louisiana have been attempting to restore areas of coastal land and they are still trying to limit the amount of land-loss due to storms. But the scale insect has made these restoration efforts much more difficult. One state-employed biologist described the scale damage as looking like a cancer infected the land. The Delta National Wildlife Refuge is a seventy five square mile region of land that extends into the Gulf of Mexico. According to a state employee, eighty percent of the refuge is covered by swaths of invasive scale insects. Experts are saying that this is not just a problem for Louisiana, but scale insects are a problem for the whole of America.

Do you think that the scale insect invasion in Louisiana is now too big to eradicate?



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