Forest Death in Denmark and Beyond

In Denmark, Ash is the third most common tree, and 90% of them are now dying. The disease is fungal, a pathogen known as “Ash die-back”, and it is now spreading across Europe.

A comparable situation in our part of the southern Appalachians would be if all the hickories were dying. While this pathogen has become so virulent just now I don’t think is known, but certainly the ease with which plants are transported across vast distances by man in days that could not be crossed in millennia by plant and animal mechanisms alone accounts for the rapid spread into new territory.

The hope is that perhaps 1% might be genetically resistant to the pathogen and survive — in much the same way there was hope for resistance among American chestnuts, but they were cut for market so quickly as they began to die that no resistant trees persisted in forest.

On a related note, if you’re interested in the life of plants (and why would you not be?) here is a great site that discusses the topic in some detail, and I have bookmarked it to come back and possibly blog on some of these topics that are related to a couple of things I’m writing for the Floyd County Almanac.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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