The study was part of lead author Emma Hudgins’ Ph.D. thesis at McGill University in Montreal. Hudgins is now a postdoctoral fellow at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.

“Over the course of my Ph.D., I had built models to predict how invasive insects would spread and establish across the United States, and I wanted to translate these spread predictions to predictions of ecological and economic impact,” Hudgins tells Treehugger. “I was also fortunate to have access to a new database of urban tree distributions and pest severity estimates from two recent studies, which made this project possible.”

Researchers specifically concentrated on the effects of the insects on city trees, because they point out that 82% of the U.S. population lives in urban settings and those numbers continue to grow. “More generally, we were interested in looking at future impacts of urban trees because of their myriad benefits to city-dwellers, combined with the fact that urban areas are important bridgeheads for invasions,” Hudgins says.

“Beyond looking at current threats, we also wanted to create a list of high-impact characteristics in order to predict future insect invaders that would have the greatest impact that have not yet established in the U.S.”

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