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Old 07-02-2021, 12:45 PM   #35
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 1,687
Originally Posted by Crash View Post
Infestations like the caterpillars have happened in the past and I assume that's why the trees evolved multiple leafings. It's possible (and I would guess even likely) that something similar will happen with ash trees. It'll just part of the evolution of the ash genome.

In order for the genome to evolve, a significant portion of the individual tree that do not have favorable characteristics (perhaps well over 99%) die off, leaving behind those that have "mutations" that are favorable to protecting itself from EAB. Sure its painful to watch. Maybe it'll take thousands of years before ash forests can become viable across large regions again.

Just as mankind has "interfered" with nature by bringing the EAB to this country, mankind may also "interfere" with nature by helping ash trees evolve at a faster pace through gene splicing in an effort to create a better genome.
I suspect this will be like most of other invasive encounters in the past two centuries - it's going to kill 99% of the trees it affects. Chestnut, Elm, Beech... all the same. Different pathogens, similar impacts to the ecosystems.

Trees are incredibly versatile, in some cases forcing their own genetic selection in response to pathogens. Transposons, or transposable genes are active in many plants. Once in a while this strategy works and resistant strains can develop. We are really just starting to understand this reality in that genetics and environment are almost inseparable despite the traditional "nature vs nurture" dichotomy. It's also shown that mechanisms like this actually speed species change through evolution in response to major changes in environment. So called punctuated equilibrium. Us intervening may speed the process such as in Chestnut repopulation and Beech management. The idea is we can cheat what would, or may take thousands of years to reestablish.

Hard to say if our intervention to fix our mistakes is the right move. Law of unintended consequences says there will be negative impacts of this - but again, negative to who? Our lens is us and our economy. We see these impacts and it frustrates us but really it's a much bigger picture, one that we won't fully understand, and maybe neither will the next generation...
montcalm is offline   Reply With Quote