Pearson Forest Bounces Back From Loss of Ash Trees

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Seventeen years ago, one of the most destructive forest species ever to invade the United States hitched a ride aboard cargo ships from Asia and arrived in Southeast Michigan. A year later, it spread to Ohio where the ash trees in Pearson Metropark were among its first victims in the state.

The beetle has proven fatal to all 16 species of ash trees across half the U.S. states and five Canadian provinces. In Ohio, where there were an estimated 3.8 billion ash trees – one of every 10 trees – EAB spread like wildfire.

Today at Pearson, there are no large ash trees left in monitoring plots that researchers have studied for 14 years. A new research paper written by Scott Abella, Ph.D. a contractor for Metroparks, examined the plots to observe changes in forest communities from 2005 to 2018.

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“It certainly is regrettable to have such a broad-scale die-off of an important native tree like ash throughout eastern North America,” Dr. Abella said. “But at least in terms of having the damage minimized, forests at Pearson have recovered as favorably as could be hoped.”

Metroparks natural resources director Tim Schetter, Ph.D.; Karen Menard, research and monitoring supervisor; and retired director of natural resources John Jaeger participated in the research and are among the authors credited for the paper, Fourteen years of swamp forest change from the onset, during, and after invasion of emerald ash borer. Co-author Connie Hausman, Ph.D., is executive director of the Ohio Biological Survey. Their findings are important because southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio were the epicenter of the EAB invasion, and the 14-year dataset is among the longest in the North America.

Research Paper>

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In 2005, then Ohio Governor Bob Taft came to Pearson to see for himself the damage done by the emerald ash borer and to urge people not to transport firewood that could accelerate the spread of the destructive Asian beetle.

Photos: Top: The emerald green beetle responsible for the total destruction of ash trees across Lucas County, courtesy The Ohio State University Extension. Other photos from Metroparks Toledo archives.