Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe: Black Ash Management

Yes
Planning
The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe worked with partners to examine climate change impacts to black ash management.

Project Area

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is located in the St. Lawrence River Valley in northern New York and Canada. This area—which is called Akwesasne, a Mohawk word for 'land where the partridge drums'—is literally bisected by St. Lawrence River and the United States-Canada Border. The tribal forestry program manages approximately 6,800 acres of forest, much of which is forested wetlands. Members of the St. Regis Mohawk community, similar to many tribes in the Midwest and Northeast, are very concerned about the introduction of the emerald ash borer (EAB). This insect kills ash trees, which are very important cultural resources. The tribe has been actively working to prevent the establishment of the emerald ash borer in the area and safeguard the ash resource; this project considered how climate change could affect the management of black ash stands now and in the future.

Management Goals

This project emphasized the cultural use of black ash for members of the St. Regis Mohawk community. Basketmaking has long been an important cultural tradition for the Akwesasne Mohawk people, and the tribe has been actively considering the environmental challenges from the emerald ash borer and working to conserve the ash resource in light of changing conditions. This goals of this project were to increase the availability of resources for basketmaking and develop silviculture practices for black ash stands.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Earlier leaf-out and flowering could increase the risk of damage from late spring frosts.
A longer growing season could favor invasive plant species, which out-compete native species while they are dormant.
Model projections from the Climate Change Tree Atlas indicate that the suitable habitat for black ash will decrease as a result of climate change.
Black ash favor conditions of high water in the spring generated from snow. Shorter, milder winters will affect the depth of water at the beginning of the spring melt, and other changes in climate could alter hydrology.
Black ash forests tend to have low diversity and are not tolerant of disturbance, making them more vulnerable to many types of change.
The emerald ash borer can be killed be extremely cold temperatures, but extremely cold temperatures are becoming less frequent as the climate warms.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

Many different threats, including emerald ash borer and climate change, point to worsening conditions for black ash forests.
Drier summer conditions or other climate stressors could slow the growth of ash trees, reducing the quality or quantity of wood available for basket making.
Other species, such as native silver maple or invasive plants, could become more competitive, and these species are not valuable for basket making.
Loss of diversity could interfere with any relationships between black ash and other organisms. These relationships are not well understood but are important for the health of the ecosystem.
Black ash forests are typically wetlands, which can restrict the type of actions that can be used for intervention.
Any future damage from emerald ash borer will further reduce the ash component in these forests, reducing forest diversity and potentially exacerbating other impacts from climate change.

Opportunities

Increased moisture could improve habitat for black ash trees in some locations, helping to reduce stress and mortality.
Learning how to manage ash before it disappears will be helpful to future generations when it becomes possible for ash to survive.

Adaptation Actions

The Adaptation Workbook was used to identify some potential adaptation actions for this project, including:

Area/TopicApproachTactics
Black ash forests
Strategy 4: Maintain or create refugia.
4.1. Prioritize and maintain unique sites.
4.2. Prioritize and maintain sensitive or at-risk species or communities.
Identify black ash forests in the region and enter into a spatial database.
Improve forest conditions now to allow for future regeneration by seed; these areas can be used for future seed collection and storage.
Create pool of basket-grade seeds for a period of about 10 years.
Strategy 4: Maintain or create refugia.
4.3. Establish artificial reserves for at-risk and displaced species.
Create refugia in island locations.
Collect seeds from black ash, stratify and germinate, care for in nursery.
Identify island communities along Atlantic coast where movement of materials is highly regulated and can be managed and where distance across water barrier is likely to prevent EAB. Develop cooperative agreements with island communities for planting.

Monitoring

Several monitoring items were identified that could help inform future management, including:
Black ash abundance and stocking
Number of basket trees harvested
Percentage of bolt that is usable for basket maker and number of splint bundles per tree
Species composition
Regeneration success and composition

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

crew of workers cutting ash trees in winter
worker cutting ash trees in winter
crew of workers cutting ash trees in winter

Project Documents

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Maria

Keywords

Insect pests, Lowland/ bottomland hardwoods, Water resources

Last Updated

Friday, April 14, 2017