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Mehek Desai

Sela Wang
Xin Xu(Yuki)
Jasmine Zamora
Arroyo Seco Project Paper
Introduction (Big Picture):
Any ecosystem can be significantly affected by an invasive species, seeing as they
usually throw off the balance of an ecosystem and its niches. Here we demonstrate how a
parasitic invasive species, which was accidentally introduced to Southern California, impacted
the ecosystem by infesting multiple species of native trees, as well as affecting their niches in the
environment. This is significant because the parasitic invasive species is capable of reproducing
quickly; due to the fact that it multiplies rapidly, and because most native trees in Southern
California are susceptible to this sort of infestation, not only does the invasive species endanger
the trees, but it could also cause a domino effect: thereby affecting other animals which rely on
the native trees, their habitats, and by extension, human beings and our economy.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, invasive species, which could be any alien
or non-native living organism introduced to a native environment, are among the biggest threats
to native wildlife (Invasive Species). They can potentially cause harm to the native
environment, the economy or even, human health (Invasive Species). It is due to invasive
species that about 42% of species in the world are threatened or endangered (Invasive Species).
One such noted situation took place beginning in 1996, in Chicago and New York City, when an
exotic long-horned beetle was discovered attacking ornamental trees (Paine and Hoddle, 2016
). The Asian Long-Horned beetle, which is native to Asia, was accidentally introduced to the
United States through untreated wooden packaging crates originating in China (Paine and
Hoddle, 2016). They are known for entering the tree and destroying the integrity of the wood,
and potentially harming animals and humans.
Despite the barely settling fact that the native tree species of Southern California are not
yet in danger of being extinct, its important to acknowledge that they are heading toward that
direction, unless the parasitic invasive species are stopped from furthering damage. As such, it is
also important to note that due to the fact that we dont really know how to stop the species from
spreading so quickly, or how to slow down their multiplying process, its incredibly difficult to
stop the cycle of the trees dying and heading toward becoming endangered.
Here we examine such a case; wherein an invasive species, a Borer beetle known as the
Polyphagous Shot-Hole Borer (Euwallacea sp.) infested the California Sycamore tree (Platanus
racemosa) among over 20 species of native Southern Californian trees. This parasitic Borer
beetle, which is thought to have originated from Southeast Asia, infests trees (in this case the
California Sycamore) by drilling a hole into their branches, and building tunnels within the tree,
planting a fungus whose spores it carries in its body, so that it will later serve as food for itself as
well as the its larvae. Through this process, the fungus (Fusarium euwallaceae), and by

extension, the Borer beetle, destroys the tree from inside until it dies. When multiple trees are
infested (and therefore affected) by the Borer beetle, the trees niche in the ecosystem is affected
as well, which negatively impacts the entire ecosystem, thus affecting humans too.
Ecology of California Sycamore
The California Sycamore(Platanus racemosa) grows in moist, full-sun place. This
species always associated with riparian community. California sycamore is an obligate
phreatophyte, so that trees has deep root and dependent on water from a permanent ground
supply. California sycamore is always growing with willows and cottonwoods, and it is dominant
component of riparian woods in river terraces and bottom canyon.
In riparian area, birds usually live or nest depend on canopy of species. California
sycamore is long-lived and grows at a fast rate with a height of forty to a hundred feet and width
of five feet in diameter.(Garden) Since sycamore trees are taller than species such as willows
and cottonwood, so that birds favor to survive on sycamore trees. California sycamore provides
food and nesting sites to the birds and other small species. Birds depend upon California
sycamore includes red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, Swainson's hawk, various species of
warblers, woodpeckers and hummingbirds.(Garden) Moreover, mistletoe, a parasitic plant, is
often found in California sycamore. Mistletoe provides food to species in community and bring
to the trees by the bird shelter there. (Glendale California 2016) Besides, Larvae of the Western
tiger swallowtail butterfly is also depend on sycamore tree. Sycamore trees provide food source
and sites for butterflies to offspring and growing.(Glendale California 2016)
The Sycamore can live for centuries; however, the fungus Anthracnose poses as a serious
and prevalent disease in the California sycamore. The disease kills foliage and twigs in spring
because the fungus emerges at cool temperature and wet weather, and fungal spores appear from
leaf litter. The disease has difficulty infecting the California sycamore when temperature
becomes warmer or exceeds 60 degree Celsius.(Painter 2008
On the other hand, the California sycamore is also infected by the wood-boring beetle
larvae. On a sunny day, the borer beetles would drop into trees' bark, leaves or sometimes pollen.
According to SF Gate, insects between the sizes of 1/4 inches to 1/2 inches would not bother
healthy sycamore trees, otherwise, the trees are under stress. During Spring and Summer, bark
crevices of sycamores serve as incubators for female beetles that produce eggs, and damaged or
sun-scalded bark are their favorite choice. After the eggs are hatched, larvae like to burrow into
bark. They consume nutrients by penetrating the phloem that transports sugar-rich sap, and
larvae leaves irregular, sawdust and waste-filled tunnels in their trace. As a result, young
sycamore trees begin to die because of the beetles, and older sycamore trees with tunnels also
receive damage. The dying bark above tunnels often peels off or oozes sap, and larvae can
penetrate into wood at most two inches. During winter, the larvae grows more than 1/2 inches
will pupate in the tunnels they make, and become adult during spring. Those adult beetles move
and produce eggs at other sycamore trees. Thus, the decrease in sycamore trees is related with
growth of beetles. (Wolfe)

Ecology of Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer

The polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB) requires a host tree in order to sustain life and
reproduce. The beetle, which is smaller than a sesame seed, infests trees (the branches,
specifically) by drilling holes into the sapwood directly under the bark to form galleries and
plants fungus for itself and its larvae to consume. The tree species the beetle inhabits must be
susceptible (not resistant) to the pathogenic fungus species that the beetle bring. In its native
area, the beetle generally infests sick or dying trees, but when moved to a new habitat as an
invasive species, they end up infesting healthy trees too. (2012, Stouthamer, 2016).
The PSHB shares a symbiotic relationship with the Fusarium sp./Fusarium euwallaceae.
The spores of these fungi are carried within the mycangia of the beetle who acts as a vector.
(Stouthamer, 2016) As the beetle digs a tunnel within the branch of a tree, it plants the fungus,
which will soon grow on in the tree and along its walls. (Carpio, 2015) It serves as food for both
the adult beetle as well as the young beetles (2012). The PSHB is an invasive species that has
infested over 200 native and non-native species of trees in the Los Angeles area as of fall 2014.
(Stouthamer, 2016) It affects species such as Box Elder, Coast Live Oak, California Sycamore,
and Avocado. The fungus transmits throughout the trees system, eventually killing the entire
tree. Therefore, the infestation and spread of these beetles is amazing and makes their
relationship with plants parasitic in nature. (Khan, 2016)
In terms of adaptations to the environment, whichever way the beetles spread across areas
of Southern California, they are an invasive species in this area.The Polyphagous Shot Hole
Bearer isnt necessarily resistant to its new environment, though it does seem to be infesting
healthy trees more often than it should, seeing as it only infests sick or dying trees in its native
home (2012). However, it is also important to note that because it reproduces so quickly (2-4
generations per year in Southern California), they affect trees significantly by destroying the
xylems at a rapid pace (Coleman, 2013). On the similar note, they lack natural predators in
Southern California unlike in places where they may have originated in such as Vietnam.
Therefore, the beetles can thrive in the absence of predators, since there is an abundance of trees
for them to invade, grow their food source, and lay eggs without any obstacles (Khan, 2016).
For the case of the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (Euwallacea fornicates) and the
California Sycamore (Platanus racemose), our research hypotheses are as follows: (1) the
Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer has had a greater chance to spread in the Arroyo Seco due to its
non-nativity and lack of natural competitors, (2) the California Sycamore is susceptible to
pathogenic funguses, similar to those that the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer spreads, and (3) that
the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer and California Sycamore tree interaction has had a negative
impact on the native ecosystem in the area.
We strongly believe that the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borers non-nativity allows it to
expand more and spread quickly. There are 33 different tree species in Southern California that
are suitable hosts for the beetle, and along with that, there is no natural competition for resources
(Khan, 2015). Some of the trees that are known to have been infected include the Box Elder

(Acer negundo), Castor Bean (Ricinus communis), Avocado Tree (Persea americana), Coast Live
Oak (Quercus agrifolia), English Oak (Quercus robur), and Valley Oak (Quercus lobata). There
are no predators in our native ecosystem that are a threat to the beetles, which is why they have
continued to thrive in trees that are susceptible to pathogenic funguses (Khan, 2016).
The California Sycamore is documented to be prone to a variety of diseases. A frequent
disease for the California Sycamore is the fungus Anthracnose, which flourishes in cool, moist
environments (Garden, 1981). This fungus causes irregular growth of the tree trunk, branches,
and leaves. For this reason, we believe that it is highly likely that the California Sycamore tree is
susceptible to the pathogenic fungus that the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer plants within the tree
after infesting it.
Several borer beetles have been known to be a predator for the California Sycamore,
these include: crosswood borers, flathead borers (Buprestidae), roundhead borers
(Cerambycidae), and bark borers (Dendroctonus ponderosae) (Nesom, 2002). The Polyphagous
Shot Hole Borer is no different, and we believe the infestation of this pest has had a negative
impact on plants and wildlife within the Arroyo Seco. Plenty of native species of birds have been
known to rely on the canopy area of the California Sycamore for shelter (Garden, 1981). Whilst
offering food from its leaves, plants brought to the California Sycamore, such as Mistletoe,
attach to the tree and provide food for animals living there. For this reason, we believe that the
destruction of this tree, caused by the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer, is harmful to the ecosystem
because without this tree, there would be no shelter and no food for the wildlife in and around
the neighboring area.

Figure 1: beetles
infested oak tree
Figure 2: beetle
infested California

One thing that can be done is to research more about why these beetles prefer to infest
healthy tree species in California while back in their native land, they infest old and dying trees.
Another thing that needs more attention is how to get rid of these beetles for good and stop their
spreading. One possible way to rid of them would be to find a predator in the beetles non-native
environment (Southern California) to kill off the beetles since they currently do not fall prey to
any species in this area. Another question to ask would be: what makes some tree species (20
observed and test) resistant to the fungal and beetle invasion.
Our findings matter because the invasive species, PSHB and the parasitic Fusarium
euwallaceae, affect the ecosystem as a whole. Californian native tree species are becoming
endangered due to invasive species infesting them. The beetles and fungi in this particular case
are causing branches to fall, which could potentially cause hazard to humans and passers-bies.
Similarly, the spread of these beetles could cause more and more problems as they spread rapidly
and are hard to control at this point. This could affect and change the ecosystem as birds and
other animals need to relocate due to the lack of these trees for shade, protection, food source,
and shelter purposes. If the beetles are not suppressed, they could possibly keep spreading, as far
as to neighboring states and beyond. Similarly, having to cut down these trees down because they
are no longer able to sustain themselves is practically no different than practicing deforestation
methods. As a result, our ecosystem as well as others in the future years may look very different
if we do not find a solution to this serious problem. Additionally, if action is not taken now and
implemented, the loss of trees could become extremely serious; the state of California produces
most of the food (fruits, nuts and vegetables) of the entire country. If the population of the
Polyphagous Shot-Hole Borer continues to grow and spread, it could seriously affect crop
growth and the country as well.

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