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U.S. Forest Service works to restore American elm on Chippewa National Forest

Forest Service employees inoculated more than 1,200 research elm trees with Dutch elm disease at three sites around the Chippewa National Forest June 13-15.

Scientists and employees from the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and the Chippewa National Forest worked at sites near Blackduck, Marcell and Deer River, Minn., pruning and inoculating trees that were planted seven years ago to test not only DED resistance, but also cold hardiness.

The trees were propagated using American elm trees from the Chippewa National Forest that had survived DED in the past. Those trees were crossed with some of the strains of disease-resistant American elm that have been developed.

The goal of Forest Service research is to create enough genetic diversity in DED-resistant American elm so that the tree can be successfully restored in forests and cities throughout its native range.

Jim Slavicek, the project leader from the Northern Research Station in Delaware, Ohio, said that ash trees took the place of elms in many areas, but as the threat of the emerald ash bore increases, so does the need for trees that will continue the current ecosystems.

“The American elm had been dominate in riparian and other areas on the national forest and then Dutch elm disease took it out. In its place moved the ash tree,” said Slavicek. “In riparian areas we need trees to pull that water out of the ground.”

Slavicek said that finding a cold-hardy elm that is resistant to DED will help maintain the current ecosystem, even as other trees face threats.

“If the ash go, then the water table goes up and it creates more swamps,” said Slavicek. “So instead of having trees, you have a lot of grasses and shrubs that can handle the wet condition, so it gives you a totally different ecosystem.”

A native tree in all but the western states, the American elm was an iconic street tree and an important species in natural forests. Researchers have been working in recent years to create resistant strains of the species. The DED fungal pathogen was introduced into the United States in the 1930s and in the subsequent years has destroyed millions of American elm trees all over the United States and Canada.

Chad Kirschbaum, the Deer River District Ranger, said that the future of forests is directly linked to tree diversity and health and a DED resistant American elm will play a part in that.

“As forest manager we are looking into the future and thinking about what might be coming next for managing the health of our forest and the more diversity we have for tree species in the forest than the more resilient those stands will be to climate change and disease issues,” said Kirschbaum. “This project will give us that species to use hopefully as part of that resilient stand of trees.”


CUTLINES — All photos courtesy Scott P. Farley USDA Forest Service

0001 Jim Slavicek, the project leader from the Northern Research Station in Delaware, Ohio, works with Chad Kirschbaum, the Deer River District Ranger, preparing to inoculate American elm trees near Spring Lake, Minnesota.

0003 Caitlin Younger (forefront) and Emily Kowalke, Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa summer interns at the Chippewa National Forest, drill and inoculate American elm trees on June 15, near Spring Lake, Minnesota.

0002 Travis K. Jones, a reforestation forester with the Chippewa National Forest, drills into an American elm tree preparing for inoculating the tree on June 15, near Spring Lake, Minnesota.



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