The death of the American Chestnut due to an Asian bark fungus accidentally introduced to the United States had profound environmental and economic consequences since the tree was highly valued for its strong, workable lumber and a variety of wildlife from deer to birds to bears relied upon the chestnut for food.
Ongoing efforts to reintroduce the American Chestnut are labor intensive and expensive, in part because they rely on genetic cross breeding to produce a tree that is genetically speaking primarily an American Chestnut but endowed with the Chinese Chestnut blight-resistance genes. For instance, one recent blight-resistant strain ready for reintroduction is calculated to be 94 percent American Chestnut and six percent Chinese Chestnut.
Since production of genetically cross-bred American Chestnuts for reintroduction is so laborious, University of Cincinnati graduate and undergraduate biology students recently tested a new software tool called NEWGARDEN in order to see how it might guide preserve managers in creating the most-favorable conditions for reintroduction plantings of American Chestnuts.
The results of that testing, "Founder Placement and Gene Dispersal Affect Population Growth and Genetic Diversity in Restoration Planting of American Chestnut," will be presented by UC biology doctoral student Yamini Kashimshetty at the March 23-25 Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference, a conference specifically for undergraduate and graduate student research that will draw representatives from the region.
Several years ago, UC faculty members Steven Rogstad of biological sciences and and Stephan Pelikan of mathematical sciences developed the NEWGARDEN computer program in order to not only track but to predict long-term outcomes for newly founded plant populations in terms of population size and genetic diversity.
Predicting best planting practices for American chestnuts
Using the NEWGARD
|Contact: M.B. Reilly|
University of Cincinnati