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Seedling Survival Study by U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station Contributes to Metroparks of the Toledo Area Restoration Project

Delaware, OH, April 11, 2011 - The U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station’s study of seedling survival rates in Toledo, Ohio, will one day help establish when ash trees should be replaced – before or after they’ve been killed by the emerald ash borer. In the nearer term, the research project will help restore Oak Openings Preserve Metropark.

Thousands of trees will be planted in April and May throughout the Metroparks as part of an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project. The Northern Research Station’s portion of the project involves planting 800 seedlings in restoration trial plots in Oak Openings Preserve.

Trees planted at Oak Openings Preserve trial plots will include pin oak, sycamore and American elm, which was a dominant tree species in the Oak Opening Preserve floodplain before being decimated by Dutch Elm Disease (DED). The Metroparks planting marks the first time the Northern Research Station has replaced ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer using DED-tolerant American elm on a large scale.

“American elm will be coming full circle in this restoration project,” said Kathleen Knight, a research ecologist with the Northern Research Station.

The emerald ash borer has killed virtually 100 percent of the ash trees in areas where it has spread. The non-native, invasive insect was first detected in Michigan in 2002 and has spread to western Pennsylvania, Canada, southern Indiana and eastern Minnesota, often carried with firewood into new areas. The Northern Research Station’s research will help scientists answer a question that will become increasingly relevant: should ash trees be replaced while they are still healthy or after trees are dead?

Knight and Jim Slavicek, a research biologist with the Northern Research Station who bred and tested the DED-tolerant American elm seedlings that will be used in the experimental planting, are studying factors that affect seedling success.

The research will compare the growth and mortality of trees in two locations. At Oak Openings Preserve in Swanton, the combination of emerald ash borer and damaging storms created sunny open spaces in the floodplain that, over the past few years, have been taken over by invasive vegetation that may out-compete tree seedlings for sunlight and moisture.

In Cleveland, emerald ash borer hasn’t yet destroyed the city’s ash trees. Stands of ash trees are still healthy and create a canopy that limits sunlight and, with it, vegetative growth in the understory. If tree seedlings can establish in this environment, they may be poised to take advantage of gaps as the ash trees die and out-compete the invasive vegetation.  Research will evaluate the costs and benefits of the two planting strategies, providing information for managers as emerald ash borer continues to spread and impact forests. Experimental plots will be planted in Cleveland later in May.

Both American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding and disaster funding will help Metroparks purchase native trees from area nurseries, as well as fund seasonal positions for planting and maintaining the young trees.

“Metroparks has been committed to preserving the unique natural resources of this area since 1928,” according to Don Rettig, director of Metroparks. “We are excited to assist with research that will help communities throughout the region to restore forest resources damaged by the emerald ash borer.”

Metroparks of the Toledo Area includes 11,000 acres of the region's most significant natural areas, from the Oak Openings to the Lake Erie coastal zone, and green corridors along the Maumee River, Ottawa River and Swan Creek. Metroparks provides habitat for rare and endangered plants and animals and offers visitors trails, significant historical sites, shelters and indoor facilities, playgrounds and open spaces.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. The mission of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

 

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The mission of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/.

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Last modified: April 11, 2011