Few ash trees (Fraxinus
spp.) have survived the initial devastation that emerald ash borer beetle (EAB) (Agrilus planipennis
) has caused in natural populations. We studied green ash (Fraxinus planipennis
) trees in a floodplain population after >90% of ash had died from EAB infestation. We examined the relationship among the canopy health classes of surviving ash trees and their nearest neighboring trees (within 6 m) and available soil nutrients. A subset of focal ash trees was randomly selected within health classes ranging from healthy to recently deceased. Focal trees with the healthiest canopy class had significantly fewer ash neighbors compared to declining health classes. Other species of tree neighbors did not have a significant impact on surviving ash tree canopy health. Nutrients in soils immediately surrounding focal trees were compared among health classes. Samples from treeless areas were also used for comparison. There was a significantly greater amount of sulfur (ppm) and phosphorus (mg/kg) in ash tree soil compared to treeless area soil. The relationships between these soil nutrient differences may be from nutrient effects on trees, tree effects on nutrients, or microsite variation in flooded areas. Our data do not directly assess whether these ash trees with healthier canopies have increased resistance to EAB but do indicate that at neighborhood scales in EAB aftermath forests, the surviving ash trees have healthier canopies when separated at least 6 m from other ash trees. This research highlights scale-dependent neighborhood composition drivers of tree susceptibility to pests and suggests that drivers during initial infestation differ from drivers in aftermath forests.
Kappler, Rachel H.; Knight, Kathleen S.; Koch, Jennifer; Root, Karen V. 2018. Neighboring Tree Effects and Soil Nutrient Associations with Surviving Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) in an Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) Infested Floodplain Forest. Forests. 9(4): 183. 11 p. https://doi.org/10.3390/f9040183.