Learn More About the Great Lakes Basin Forest Health Collaborative (GLB FHC)

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Many of our BYGL readers, like yourself, are interested in the health of our forests, whether that be large expansive woodlands, or individual plants in urban areas. We were recently contacted by Anna Funk and Rachel Kappler with Holden Arboretum and the Great Lakes Basin Forest Health Collaborative. Below you will find information written by Anna and Rachel to introduce you, in a Q and A approach, to the collaborative and most importantly what you can do to help. 



How you can help save Ohio’s trees from invasive pests


Invasive pests like the emerald ash borer and hemlock woolly adelgid beetle have been devastating to our local forests. But there are some trees that seem to dodge these threats even when their neighbors fall ill, showcasing a genetic resilience that could have the power to pest-proof future forests.


These survivors, called lingering trees, are of major interest to ecologists and forest researchers. Using a method called resistance breeding, they can create offspring from lingering trees to repopulate forests with a natural resistance to invasive diseases.


One group leading the charge in these efforts is the Great Lakes Basin Forest Health Collaborative (GLB FHC), a regional organization based at Holden Arboretum in Kirtland that focuses on replenishing forest health. Since most of Ohio’s forests are privately owned, the collaborative relies on the efforts of local property owners to spot lingering trees in their own backyard.


In this conversation, the collaborative’s Forest Health Coordinator, Rachel Kappler, discusses the group’s work and how Ohio residents can get involved in the effort to strengthen local forests.



What is the Great Lakes Basin Forest Health Collaborative?


It is a functional collaborative where each person who is interested in what we're doing helps out in the best way they can.


Our focus is specifically on making forests healthier by finding the trees that seem to be resistant to invasive pests and diseases. We have a few trees in particular that we're working on right now that have had problems with invasives impacting their populations.


For example, we have ash trees, which had the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle from Asia. And a little while after they started to heavily impact populations, some individual trees were sought out and found to be doing a lot better than we thought they would be. I like to call them suspiciously healthy.


The Forest Service was able to work on laboratory greenhouse tests to understand just how resistant they are to the beetle. And they're currently working on it with other researchers for the hemlock woolly adelgid beetle on eastern hemlock and beech bark disease and beech leaf disease on beech as well.



So who can join the collaborative? And what’s the expectation for somebody who joins?


We have all sorts of individuals who are a part of the collaborative. It ranges from non-profit organizations that work with trees, to government organizations, to plant nurseries and regular forest owners – really any person who's interested in trying to keep an eye out for these trees that might be resistant to invasive threats.


We typically call them lingering trees because they are the last individuals lingering in a population that's been hit hard by pests or disease. The reason we involve a lot of citizens and woodland owners is because we need a lot of eyes on the ground to let us know if they spot any particular individual tree that looks like it's a lingering tree.



How can Ohio residents help?


Right now we're taking a look at areas all across Ohio to make sure we haven't missed any lingering ash trees. Ash has had high mortality from the emerald ash borer, and a lot of people think that they're not around anymore, which in some places is true. But in other places, we have a lot of young ash trees starting to grow again.


We're still looking for any lingering, large mature ash trees that might have missed our purview from being on either private woodlands, or somewhere deep off the trail. So anyone with information on that can check out our webpage, get a hold of me via email, or submit an observation using the TreeSnap app on your phone.


TreeSnap is an app that lets you input an individual tree that you’ve taken pictures of, and write down some information on what it looks like and its surroundings. All sorts of forest researchers use this data. It also gives us the location so we can see where it’s located and take a look at it.



Do you have to have the app on your phone when you come across a tree, or can you manually log information after you’ve seen one?


Usually you'll need to take your phone to the location so that it can geotag where you saw the tree. The app works even if you're off the grid and don't have service;iIt'll save your location as best it can. And then it'll ask you to upload it later back when you're in a place where there is service.



How likely is it that I have a lingering ash in my backyard in the suburbs? Should I report my ash tree?


Ash was once a popular street tree, but because street trees will all be nursery-grown trees of different types and cultivars, the Forest Service has already tested them for emerald ash borers. So there's no need to report a lingering ash tree in your urban or suburban backyard.


But if you have a healthy ash, do take note that the emerald ash borer is still in the area. It might take a lot longer nowadays for a new ash tree to succumb to a beetle infestation, but it can still die from it. So you may want to look into having a pesticide application for that tree to help it survive in the long run.



Would you say the same for beech and hemlock, if I have one on my property? Should I report it or take precautions to protect it?


There are readily available pesticide treatments for hemlock woolly adelgid that can help hemlock trees survive in the long term. For beech trees, there’s still research happening to understand what kind of applications could help get rid of beech leaf disease. I think within the next year or two, we'll be able to say for certain what kind of treatments will work well.


Beech and hemlock trees also don't necessarily need to be reported as lingering trees unless you have at least one to 10 acres of forested land on your property. In those areas, if you have a tree that looks like it's surviving even though the other ones are dying, that’s what we’re looking for.



What else can people do to help your search for lingering and infected trees in Ohio?


The other thing that homeowners can do is take a look for and report beech leaf disease to their local forester if they have one. Or, we have a couple of different ways you can report beech leaf disease: One of the quickest ways would be to email Tom Macy, who is our forest health program manager for the state of Ohio.


There are other phone apps like EDDMapS, which is an early detection tool for invasives. In the portion of Ohio that has hemlocks, it's usually not that easy to know if it has hemlock woolly adelgid unless it's the winter or early spring or you can see the little white puff balls underneath the branches. But we do know that a lot of populations of hemlock have it, so we're keeping an eye out on that.



What resources from the collaborative are available for homeowners to check out online?


We do have a few recorded webinars, linked on our website, that homeowners can look at if they're interested. If you want to learn more about each of these issues, we also have links to some information on how to identify lingering ash trees and report them, and how you can help report beech leaf disease as well. For general woodland landowner questions, I recommend visiting Holden Arboretum’s Woodland Landowner Library, or reaching out to your local Ohio forester.