The National Conservation Strategy for all Native Ash Species in Ontario is being led by the National Tree Seed Centre. The Forest Gene Conservation Association (FGCA) is supporting this effort by conducting field research. In the fall of 2018 Melissa Spearing, the field researcher for the FGCA, visited woodlots from Guelph to Windsor in search of live Ash trees (white, green, black, blue, and pumpkin) that fit with the following criteria:
- Trees in a native stand (not planted), i.e. forest, hedgerow.
- Larger trees (>20 cm DBH) with healthy crowns (for survivor DNA samples).
- Viable seed of good quality (filled embryos, low insect damage)
We heard about this project through the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority (SCRCA) after being part of the Fifty Million Tree Program. On one of the site inspections we showed Jeff Sharpe (from the SCRCA) our live Green Ash trees and asked him if he had any thoughts on why they had survived when most of the Ash trees had succumbed to the Emerald Ash Borer. When he heard about the FGCA research he remembered our conversation and passed the information on to us.
We contacted the FGCA and informed them that we had live Green Ash trees that met the criteria (our live Ash trees have a DBH of 26 cm). On October 11, Melissa Spearing visited our farm. It was an interesting morning as we learned about the research that was being done and helped Melissa as she took DNA samples and seeds from our Ash trees. She used pole pruners to do “cut leaf” and bud sampling for the DNA testing, and a throw line and tarp to gather seeds.
The DNA samples are being studied by the Canadian Forest Service; and the seeds are being sent to the National Tree Seed Centre.
The FGCA has also set up an iNaturalist project to gather reports from citizen scientists. The information that they gather will serve for planning this upcoming season. If you know the location of live Ash trees that meet the criteria please visit the iNaturalist site and submit the data (or let us know and we will submit the information).
This research is crucial as our once abundant, valuable Native Ash trees are on the brink of extinction due to the invasive beetle; the Emerald Ash Borer. Ash trees are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red list as critically endangered, with a decreasing population trend as the Emerald Ash Borer continues to expand its range.