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Mass seed collection in Oregon designed to protect native trees from invasive species

After collection, Emerald Ash seeds can last 60 to 70 years without degrading in viability.
Wyatt Williams
/
Oregon Department of Forestry
After collection, Emerald Ash seeds can last 60 to 70 years without degrading in viability.

Oregon forestry officials have collected over 900,000 seeds from a native tree species, in an effort to protect against an invasive insect.

The Oregon Ash tree is under threat from the emerald ash borer, a beetle first detected in the state last June. In a field trial, the insect killed over 95% of the Oregon Ash trees studied.

Wyatt Williams is the invasive species specialist at the Oregon Department of Forestry. He said officials have slowed the spread of the insect, but it will eventually escape into the wider state.

“Having these seeds is a backup to preserve the genetic diversity and to give researchers time to start breeding resistance.”

Williams said loss of the Oregon Ash would hurt riparian zones, ecosystems by rivers or streams where the trees provide shade and reduce sediment in the water.

With federal funding, the ODF began collecting seeds in 2019, and they have provided them to federal researchers. Officials hope to identify insect-resistant genes, cross-breed them into trees and re-populate the state.

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Nathan Wilk