Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Feature: Rally Around The Greatness Of The American Chestnut

The American chestnut was once one of the most important trees in much of the Appalachian forest. It grew in mixed hardwood stands, averaging up to 25 percent of the total forest. In 1911, chestnut comprised over 50 percent of the forest in several midstate counties.
The predominance of chestnut also contributed to its demise. In the early 1900s, tragedy struck—virtual monocultures of American chestnut were overcome by an introduced disease known as “chestnut blight” that spread rapidly throughout the population.
There were failed attempts to control the spread of the disease but it destroyed virtually all mature American chestnuts within its natural range by the 1950s.
(Photo: Retired DCNR Bureau of Forestry forester Phil Varndell assists The American Chestnut Foundation’s Sara Fitzsimmons in locating fruiting chestnuts in Michaux State Forest.)
Despite a century of blight, the American chestnut still persists in eastern U.S. forests. The chestnut survives today because its roots are not affected by the disease and when a tree succumbs to blight, sprouts often form at its base.
American chestnut sprouts grow rapidly when released by disturbance and can dominate regenerating stands before succumbing to the blight. Some of these sprouts survive long enough to produce nuts, supplying researchers and growers with the seeds they need for restoration efforts.
In a 1981 Pennsylvania Forests article, former DCNR Forest Pathologist, Barry Towers, wrote: “The study of the blight, the struggle to stop the disease and the subsequent attempts to regenerate the tree is one of the most interesting sagas in the annals of Pennsylvania forestry.”
Today, restoration efforts focus on the development of blight-resistant chestnuts through controlled breeding as well as genetic modification.
The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF), founded in 1983, aims to develop blight-resistant American chestnuts to return to the Appalachian forest. Since its inception, the organization has grown to more than 5,000 members and hundreds of volunteers in 23 states.
The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation has partnered with the DCNR and others to lead this effort in the state. DCNR foresters assist the chapter in locating flowering trees, harvesting nuts, planting orchards and test plots, and growing seedlings for research purposes at the Bureau of Forestry’s Penn Nursery.
This year, The American Chestnut Foundation in collaboration with Penn State’s Schatz Tree Genetics Colloquium will present “Integrating Genomics Tools in American Chestnut Restoration” on October 23-24, at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College.
In recognition of the work to restore the American chestnut, Gov. Tom Wolf proclaimed October 24, as American Chestnut Day in Pennsylvania:
“On this day, we recognize the importance of restoring the American chestnut tree to the eastern woodlands. From its economic value in the lumber industry to being a major element of the ecosystem, the American chestnut tree has many benefits to the Commonwealth. I applaud the American Chestnut Foundation members as you carry out the goals of the organization every day by being pioneering citizens who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to improving the environment and conservation.
“By designating Oct. 24, 2015, as American Chestnut Day, it is my hope that our citizens will recognize and join the efforts of these volunteers, advocates, researchers, and members to educate American communities about the real scope and impact of the American chestnut blight and empower people to become involved in the restoration efforts.
“As Governor, and on behalf of all the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I am pleased to support Oct. 24, 2015, as American Chestnut Day.”
With the hard work and perseverance of the American Chestnut Foundation, volunteers and DCNR, future forests will again someday be home to this majestic tree.
(Reprinted from the October 21 edition of the Resource newsletter from DCNR.   Click Here to sign up for your own copy (bottom of the page).)

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner