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Individual Highlight

Ash Trees at the Confluence of Two Threats: Emerald Ash Borer and Climate Change

Photo of Black ash stand in swampy land on the Chippewa National Forest near Cass Lake, Minnesota. Louis Iverson, USDA Forest ServiceBlack ash stand in swampy land on the Chippewa National Forest near Cass Lake, Minnesota. Louis Iverson, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Black ash, the iconic wetland species of the Northwoods, is threatened by both the emerald ash borer and changing climate. What tree species might be suitable to replace these ashes should they disappear Forest Service scientists used a series of data sets and models to characterize and prioritize possible species capable of dealing with the wetland situation under a changed climate projected for later this century.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Iverson, Louis 
Research Location : Minnesota
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 600


Black ash, a dominant tree species of forested wetlands in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, provides multiple ecosystem services. It is also a valuable resource for Native American crafters, especially basket-makers. The tree's existence is threated by the emerald ash borer (EAB), which is killing virtually all ash throughout the Midwest. EAB is now threatening the vast black ash swamps of the Northwoods, and although efforts to slow its spread have been somewhat successful, EAB has not yet been stopped. In addition, climate change impacts models indicate that habitats for black ash will diminish in future decades. Forest Service researchers identified tree species that may be able to replace black ash, including species that could be planted now to ensure that forests remain after EAB damage and after substantial changes in climate have occurred. The models showed that many species currently dominating the Northwoods, quaking aspen, balsam fir, balsam poplar and paper birch, may lose substantial habitat due to warming and varied hydrological conditions, and thus are less suitable as long-term replacement species. Species including American elm, American basswood, red maple, bur oak, and boxelder may be able to colonize areas vacated by the loss of black ash.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Kathleen S. Knight, Anantha Prasad, Stephen Matthews, Matthew P. Peters, and Robert Long
  • Annemarie Smith, U. S. Green Building Council, Columbus, Ohio
  • Daniel A. Herms and Diane M. Hartzler, Ohio State University, Wooster, Ohio
  • and John Almendinger, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Grand Rapids.