Daniel Atha, Brian Boom, Gregory Plunkett, and collaborators
NYBG scientists, working as part of a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional team, are investigating the genetic diversity of ash trees and will make these findings available to the scientific and conservation communities for use in efforts to protect North American ash trees from the invasive Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). The project’s goal is to elucidate the relationships of North American Ash species and to study patterns of susceptibility to EAB, enabling adoption of appropriate conservation strategies. Additionally, citizen scientists will be trained in New York and New England in ash identification and data collection, allowing them to contribute scientifically to the proposed project as well as further ash conservation initiatives. The project will take advantage of the unique opportunity to obtain and employ critical data while considerable areas in this region remain un-invaded by EAB. But time is of the essence, as the EAB’s range is rapidly expanding and it is known to inflict nearly 100% mortality on the ash species native to New York and New England.
To address this conservation impediment, NYBG’s research team includes the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank, U.S. National Arboretum, U.S. Forest Service, Ecological Research Institute, and Bluegrass Woodland Restoration Center. The immediate goal is to develop a robust taxonomic picture of North American ash trees, focusing largely on the Melioides section of the genus and particularly the taxonomically complicated New York and New England species. This will be accomplished by conducting a phylogenetic study (i.e., determination of evolutionary relationships) using DNA samples, chromosome analysis, herbarium specimens, and viable seed from all generally accepted and hypothesized species. Moreover, by collecting environmental data along with field samples, we will be able to account for environmentally related variability in species’ characteristics. Through outreach and coordination, our findings will be incorporated into on-the-ground conservation efforts. The project’s three main elements are collection, analysis, and outreach. See Project Outcomes for 2016-2017 here.
The New York Botanical Garden gratefully acknowledges the Sarah K. de Coizart Article TENTH Perpetual Charitable Trust for its generous support of the project Strategy for Conserving Ash Trees in the Northeast: Collection, Analysis, and Outreach. Additional support was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (Agreement 58-8020-6-004) for Characterization of Patterns of Genetic Diversity in North American Ashes (Fraxinus spp.). NYBG also is grateful to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation for granting permission to conduct research in NYC Parks and the Central Park Conservancy for the opportunity to study Ash in Central Park.