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Individual Highlight

Disease-resistant American Elms are Suitable for Mine-land Reforestation

Photo of A healthy, vigorous  2 year old DED-tolerant American elm seedling growing on a reclaimed mine site. USDA Forest ServiceA healthy, vigorous 2 year old DED-tolerant American elm seedling growing on a reclaimed mine site. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Almost 1 million acres of reclaimed mine land in the Appalachians are no longer forested. Restoring these lands to productive forests requires planting a diversity of hardwood tree seedlings. A Forest Service scientist and her partners found that planting American elm seedlings that are tolerant of Dutch elm disease may be useful in mine spoil reforestation.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Adams, Mary Beth 
Research Location : 14 reclaimed mine sites across the Appalachians from Alabama to Ohio and Pennsylvania
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 847


Coal mining in the Appalachian region has changed almost a million acres of diverse, productive hardwood forest into shrubby fields and grasslands. These fields on mine spoil stubbornly resist becoming forests and exist in a state of “arrested ecological succession.” As such, they do not provide the same ecosystem services and values as the former forests. In 2013 and 2014, to help promote diversity in forests on reclaimed mine sites, a Forest Service researcher at the agency’s Northern Research Station and her partners planted Dutch elm disease (DED)-tolerant trees at 14 sites in the Appalachian coal fields from Alabama to Pennsylvania. On most sites, more than 80 percent of these trees survived after two growing seasons. The elm seedlings averaged 61.6 cm in height after 2 years, nearly identical to that of tulip tree (also known as yellow poplar), another early successional species that performs well on reclaimed mine sites; there were also no significant differences between the two species in vigor and survival. Adding DED-tolerant American elm back into these planted forests provides another tool to restore diverse forests to Appalachia.

Additional Resources


Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Jim Slavicek
  • Appalachian Regional REforestation Initiative
  • Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation
  • University of Kentucky