From the brink of extinction November 29, 2008
From the brink of extinction
Several species of birds, the California Condor, Whooping Crane to name a few, have faced extinction and survived to see this century, thanks to good science and the combined efforts of many organizations and volunteers.
Forestry researchers are making those same types of valiant efforts to rescue the American chestnut, Castanea dentata from the impending doom, chestnut blight. Nearly 100 years ago blight, previous known to China and Japan, hit American forests like the ravages of the Bubonic plague, splaying tree bark in its death throes (photo above). In fact, with 99.9 percent of our Chestnut trees succumbing to the blight- they statistically fared worse than plague-ravished cities. This was more like Ebola for botany.
In the years since, no tree has replaced the pivotal spot in ecosystems that the American Chestnut filled. Known as a staple for many species, Wild Turkeys, Black bears, and humans alike relished the large nuts produced consistently by these trees. Chestnut lumber was highly prized as decorative and weather resistant. Mohican State Forest gave up many thousands of logs for the building industry, some being utilized far beyond our counties. The Look About Lodge in the Cleveland Metroparks system is a good example of the takings from the forest.
Mohican State Forest is actively taking a role in the research for the reintroduction of blight resistant chestnuts at the Discovery Forest. They have recently planted a test plot of 100% American Chestnuts in hope of retaining genetically true material while tests are being completed on a 15/16 American Chestnut. The 1/16th is a Chinese strain resistant to the blight, and may be the hope for our forest’s future. Long live the Chestnut!