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Individual Highlight

Partnerships in American Chestnut Research Reach Decade Milestone

Photo of Research forester Stacy Clark, USDA Forest Service, stands next to a 10-year-old hybrid chestnut seedling planted as part of a long-term research project on the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.  
Research forester Stacy Clark, USDA Forest Service, stands next to a 10-year-old hybrid chestnut seedling planted as part of a long-term research project on the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.   Snapshot : USDA Forest Service scientists at the agency's Southern Research Station have been conducting research for the last ten years on a historic forest icon, the American chestnut. The scientists have built partnerships with state agencies and universities, The American Chestnut Foundation, and within the Forest Service to transfer technology to stakeholders who desire to see this tree restored. More than 4,000 trees have been planted and carefully monitored to reveal that the American chestnut has potential to be restored throughout its native range if certain challenges can be met.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Clark, Stacy 
Research Location : Cherokee National Forest; Jefferson National Forest; Nantahala National Forest  ?
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2019
Highlight ID : 1562

Summary

USDA Forest Service research forester Stacy Clark has conducted research on how to restore American chestnut for the last ten years. The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) was an iconic keystone tree species that dominated forests in the eastern U.S., but chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) from Asia virtually eliminated the chestnut as an overstory tree by the mid-20th century. The Forest Service has partnered with The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) to eventually restore American chestnut in national forests but knowledge is lacking on the effects of management prescriptions and native and nonnative pests on the success of restoration efforts. Clark’s research shows that the American chestnut is a fast-growing tree that can occupy a site with minimal management after planting, but that tree size at the time of planting is crucial to this success. Major challenges include root rot disease, caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi, and deer browsing. Clark is working with partners from the University of Tennessee and Clemson University to better understand and mitigate these challenges. Blight resistance of hybrids varied by site and genetics, and TACF is working towards improving long-term durability of resistance in hybrid trees. Research directly supports Forest Service priorities by providing guidance on restoration of an ecological keystone species that was highly valued by the public.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • National Forest System Southern Region
  • Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
  • The American Chestnut Foundation
  • University of Tennessee
  •  ?Clemson University
  •   Mississippi State University