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School of Environment and Natural Resources


The role of a mutualism in reestablishing American Chestnut Tree in Ohio

May. 25, 2022
Blue Jay on a branch

James Wright, who recently completed his doctoral studies at Ohio State in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) published a paper with SENR faculty Stephen Matthews and Christopher Tonra and Cornelia Pinchot with the USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, to examine the role of a plant-animal mutualism in the reintroduction of chestnut and regeneration in oak forests.

"Certain interactions between plants and animals, such as bees pollinating flowers or birds caching acorns, play an outsized role in shaping ecosystems, especially when plants rely on specific animals for pollination or seed dispersal."  – James Wright

The research focuses on the preferences of avian seed-hoarders, and in particular on the role of scatter-hoarders such as Blue Jays, for seed dispersal of nut-bearing trees, including oaks and American chestnut. The research conducted at two sites in Vinton County, Ohio finds that Blue Jays appear to prefer chestnuts over similarly sized white oak acorns and may indeed facilitate chestnut dispersal, particularly in years of black oak mast failure.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) recently reported their efforts to help reestablish American Chestnut Tree in Ohio in partnership with the American Chestnut Foundation. Seedlings will be planted at Hocking State Forest with more divided among other ODNR properties.

Read more about this effort.

"The ability of Blue Jays to transport chestnuts hundreds to thousands of meters means that they will likely play a huge role in allowing blight-resistant chestnut trees to colonize new areas after restoration plantings begin," said Wright, on the research findings.

Read the full article published in Forest Ecology and Management.

Discover more about Blue Jays, Mutualism and Forest Change in this talk with James Wright presented as part of the Ohio Woodland Stewards webinar series.