ANF’s own science experiment

Photo from the U.S. Forest Service website The Emerald Ash Borer. Known to exist on the Allegheny National Forest, federal officials are undertaking additional monitoring efforts to learn more about where and when ash trees are dying on the ANF.

The Allegheny National Forest is going to be used as a giant science experiment to allow scientists to determine where and when ash trees are dying on the forest.

The Forest Service Northern Research Station – which includes a Forest Sciences Laboratory in Irvine – has undertaken and announced the effort.

“There are 308 million ash trees in the forests of Pennsylvania, and one gleaming invasive insect poses a threat to all of them,” according to a release from the Station. “On the Allegheny National Forest in northwest Pennsylvania, researchers from the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and foresters are working together to monitor the health of ash trees with the goal of one day reducing the effects of emerald ash borer (EAB).”

According to the Forest Service, the “EAB is a destructive beetle from Asia that has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees across much of the eastern United States and Canada and is now invading the Allegheny National Forest. Past and ongoing studies at the Allegheny National Forest have included understanding landscape patterns of ash health, optimizing genetic conservation strategies, and installation and initial data collection for an insecticide treatment experiment.”

A grant for nearly $16,000 from the Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry branch “is allowing for an expanded ash monitoring effort as well as an expanded team,” the statement from the Northern Research Station explained. “This month, Washington & Jefferson College joined the monitoring effort and will help establish how the spread of EAB is affecting the health of ash trees on the Allegheny National Forest.

Here’s how that information will then be utilized.

“Data collected on the National Forest will help scientists better understand the effects of EAB across different landscapes. Field data will be used to inform Satellite Detection Surveys of EAB, performed by the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Health Assessment and Applied Sciences Team, as well as to update EAB models in the National Insect and Disease Risk Map. These data will also be compared to tree health data collected in ash treatment areas where insecticides are being used to protect more than 500 individual ash trees from EAB on the Allegheny National Forest. These treated ash trees occur in clusters of 20 trees across most of the national forest and are being protected for longer term genetic and seed conservation purposes.”

“This unique collaboration among research, the Allegheny National Forest, and Washington and Jefferson College has the potential to help land managers in every state with emerald ash borer,” Research Ecologist Kathleen Knight said. “Ultimately, the knowledge we gain from this project will help forest managers and policy makers plan for, reduce, and mitigate the ecosystem impacts of EAB.”

The Station indicated that “research on the Allegheny National Forest is part of a larger collaborative project to better understand and respond to EAB impacts on forest landscapes.

“Partnering with USDA Forest Service researchers provides important information and state-of-the-art science that helps forest managers best respond to an array of emerging threats to our National Forests, such as the emerald ash borer,” ANF Forest Silviculturist Andrea Hille said.

“We are excited to partner with research scientists at the USDA Forest Service to better understand the spread and impact of EAB on the forests in eastern North America,” said Washington & Jefferson College Associate Professor Jason Kilgore. “This will also give our students the opportunity to engage in meaningful research and collaborative work.”

According to the Forest Service, ash trees are valued for their high quality hardwood products, including baseball bats, and as shade trees, and they are also important ecologically as forest trees. More than 40 native arthropods – insects and spiders – completely depend on ash for food and habitat.

Another 30 species of native arthropods depend in part on ash, while many species of wildlife consume their seeds. In the wake of the EAB invasion, which affects all species of ash native to North America, several ash species have been rated as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).