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Goal: Sustain Our Nation’s Forests and Grasslands Partnerships in American chestnut research reach a decade-old milestone

Stacy Clark, research forester with the Southern Research Station, stands next to a 10-year old hybrid chestnut seedling planted as part of a long-term research project on the Cherokee National Forest.
Stacy Clark, research forester with the Southern Research Station, stands next to a 10-year old hybrid chestnut seedling planted as part of a long-term research project on the Cherokee National Forest. (Forest Service photo by Stacy Clark)

Introduction

SRS scientists have been conducting research for the last ten years on a historic forest icon, the American chestnut. SRS has built partnerships with state agencies and universities, The American Chestnut Foundation, and the National Forest System 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.

Summary

SRS research forester Stacy Clark has been conducting 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 chestnut as an overstore tree by the mid-20th century. The Forest Service has partnered with The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) to eventually restore American chestnut on NFS lands. However, 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 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.

Principal Investigator
Stacy Clark, Research Forester
RWU
4157 - Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management
Strategic Program Area
Resource Management and Use
Publications
Eight-year blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) resistance of backcross-generation American chestnuts (Castanea dentata) planted in the southeastern United States
Establishment of American chestnuts (Castanea dentata) bred for blight (Cryphonectria parasitica ) resistance: influence of breeding and nursery grading
Reintroduction of American Chestnut in the National Forest System
Nursery performance of American and Chinese chestnuts and backcross generations in commercial tree nurseries
Leaf physiology and morphology of Castanea dentata (Marsh) Borkh., Castanea mollissima Blume, and three backcross breeding generations planted in the southern Appalachians, USA
Abundance and frequency of the Asiatic oak weevil (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) and defoliation on American, Chinese, and hybrid chestnut (Castanea)
The first research plantings of third-generation, third-backcross American chestnut (Castanea dentata) in the southeastern United States
Lessons from the field: The first tests of restoration American chestnut (Castanea dentata) seedlings planted in the Southern Region
CompassLive Article
Testing Blight Resistance in American Chestnuts
Research Partner
Southern Region, National Forest System
External Partners
The American Chestnut Foundation
The University of Tennessee
Clemson University
Mississippi State University
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station