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Last updated 9:47PM ET
September 20, 2018
WOUB Local News
WOUB Local News
OU scientists study how to restore chestnut trees
(WOUB) - A tree species that was all but wiped out by a fungus now has a shot at making a comeback, thanks to a $100,000 grant.

A team of Ohio University researchers hopes to use the grant to reforest abandoned mine land with the American chestnut. The chestnut vanished from forests during the 1930s after an Asian fungus destroyed the tree population throughout the Appalachian region.

OU forest ecologist Brian McCarthy says chestnut trees played a key role in the development of the Appalachian region. He says that's why it's so important to bring them back.

"It was shown to be very important to Native American cultures, it's very important for wildlife species, it provides a very useful wood that can be used," said McCarthy. "The early settlers here in Ohio and throughout the central and southern Appalachians used this wood in particular to construct barns from, as well as log cabins, when this area was settled many years ago."

McCarthy says the Asian fungus may not look like much, but its effects are devastating to the chestnut.

"It basically gets into the tree, usually when it obtains an age of about 10 to 15 years old, and then it disrupts the flow of water nutrients in the tree and the tree dies back," McCarthy said.

McCarthy says the team will first use the grant money to find out how to make the mine land suitable for planting. Then they will plant a new hybrid version of the chestnut that's resistant to the fungus.
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