Canopy treatment influences growth of replacement tree species in Fraxinus nigra forests threatened by the emerald ash borer in Minnesota, USA
Fraxinus nigra Marsh. (black ash), a dominant tree species of wetland forests in northern Minnesota, USA, is imperiled by the invasive insect emerald ash borer (EAB; Agrilus planipennisFairmaire, 1888). Regeneration of associated tree species is generally low in F. nigra forests and could be impacted further by climate change. Proactive management may be critical to maintaining tree cover and ecosystem function following EAB invasion. We investigated the mean height and diameter relative growth rate (RGR) of seedlings of 10 potential replacement tree species, including two from the next southern climate zone projected to be adapted to the future northern Minnesota climate. Seedlings were planted in F. nigra wetlands under four canopy treatments: unharvested control, clearcut, girdling F. nigra to emulate EAB-induced mortality, and group selection. Mean height and diameter RGR was fastest overall in the clearcut treatment, followed by the girdling, group selection, and control treatments. Depending on species, treatment significantly influenced RGR. Several species projected to be adapted to the future northern Minnesota climate had moderate to rapid mean RGR, including one from the next southern climate zone. Our results suggest that seedling plantings and overstory treatment represent an effective strategy for establishing F. nigra replacement tree species as EAB approaches, while reducing future risk from climate change.