**This article was a letter I wrote in response to an article on mpr.org, http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/03/09/ash-borer-research
Nice coverage on this subject; however, in many ways I see this entire effort erroneous due to incorrect perceptions of the existing ash “forests”*. Below is an interesting alternative view to the ash…. Please enjoy!!!!
I have been involved in restoration ecology, both in practice and research, for 25 years now. I have also traveled through most of Minnesota’s “forests” for 40 plus years. Looking at the black ash “forests” I see an even age stand of relatively young trees, indicating their recent emergence following some type of alteration in the historic biotic community.
Therefore, I consider the black ash forests as a novel biotic configuration, and historically black ash forests were instead northern sedge – blue joint meadows. The sedge meadows were the result of beaver (Castor) actions, building dams and canals, and cutting down trees. These sedge meadows and beaver ponds were the perfect summer habitat for many northern animal species, such as the now very rare black duck (Anas rubripes) and the moose.
Beavers dams filled with sediment (tons of carbon buried until the next ice-age) and became sedge meadows. The beavers moved, typically 3/4 mile up or downstream to reclaim older sedge meadows which had begun the early stages of succession towards young aspen – willow groves (moose grazing lawns), the perfect winter habitat for many northern wildlife species such as moose and snowshoe hare.
Thus, the shifting castor process created both the perfect summer and winter habitats for many northern wildlife species. In a sense, castor was merely farming aspen groves.
The intensive harvest of beaver (fur trade) and continued suppression of their numbers way below the historic densities, allowed the the aspen to mature and die (old age at 40-60 yrs, if harvested by castor or moose they’ll live 1000s of years…, thus aspen is another graze-obligate species [aspen needs to be eaten]). The aspen is soon replace by the less edible ash…., and welcome to the alternative stable state. Ash trees soon dominate the landscape creating an opportunity for epidemic outbreaks of pestilence and disease.
If i were a moose, I would be in favor of the EAB over the ash.
Science is only as good as the question being asked. If the question is erroneous then the science is erroneous too.
* The concept of “forest” is also erroneous, as true forest vegetation is Cretaceous in origin, and earth has since been evolving to become one large “savanna”. The savanna framework creates a much more robust framework for understanding planetary ecology over the past 30 million years. The savanna framework looks at ash forest (and much of our current “forest” management as highly flawed.