Clear statement that birch decline is not from the birch borer, and by extension other diseases, which affect already stressed or dying trees.
- Bookwood Historical Collection, Star Lake
Birch decline is of great concern eto tribal members, in part because of the great importance of birch trees and birch bark to Ojibwe culture. Changes in land use practices and forest management appear to be primarily responsible for the decrease in which birch (Betla papyrifere; wiigwaasatig) in the ceded territory. These changes include fire supression and excessive logging of birch. White birch is a fairly short-lived tree, and stands that were initiated 60-75 years ago may decline simply due to old age. White birch is also sensitive to elevated soil temperatures and drought, conditions that a warming climate will only make worse.
White birch and most otheer native birch species are hosts for a close relative of the EAB [emerald ash borer] called the bronze birch borer. This native insect only attacks stressed and dying birch, so while it may contribute to birch decline it is rarely the primary cause. It attacks and kills healthy Eurasian birch species, though, so the European Union is writing regulations to try and prevent it from being imported into Europe.