Monday, July 10, 2017

Episode 376 (7-10-17): Ominous Times for Ash Trees

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (5:40).

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, photos, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 7-7-17.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of July 10, 2017.

This week, we explore of a group of tree species that have a long list of uses and values, but which are experiencing widespread loss in Virginia and many other states.  Have a listen for about 20 seconds to three audio hints and see if you can guess this group of trees.

SOUNDS - 21 sec – baseball bat, paddle, railroad

If you guessed ash trees, you’re right!  Ash wood is used in baseball bats, boat paddles, railroad ties, and other products, while the living trees provide many benefits to landscapes, wildlife, and water.  North America is home to 16 native ash species; six of those occur naturally in Virginia, with White Ash and Green Ash the two most common.  White Ash tends toward upland habitats, while Green Ash is often found in moist areas, such as along streams and in river bottomlands, where they can be a significant portion of the vegetation and help create habitats, improve water quality, and stabilize flows. Both species provide food for a variety of animals.   Ashes also have been widely planted in cities and towns, where they join with other trees in providing scenic value, shade, stormwater reduction, and air-quality benefits.

But since the early 2000s, ash trees have been put at serious risk by the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle native to Asia.  As of June 2017, the insect had been found in 30 states and over 50 Virginia counties.   Once an area’s invaded, ash trees are unlikely to survive for more than a few years without expensive chemical treatment.

As a potential alternative, scientists are researching the use of ash borers’ natural enemies to reduce the pest’s impact.  Have a listen for about 65 seconds to a description of one such research effort at Virginia Tech.  The speaker is Max Ragozzino, a Ph.D. student in entomology, on March 2, 2017.

VOICE - ~ 66 sec

Emerald Ash Borers are only one of many non-native pest species threatening different native trees in Virginia and elsewhere.  Some other serious tree pests currently are the Gypsy Moth, Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, and Asian Longhorned Beetle.  But because of ash trees’ familiarity and many uses—from baseball to riverside to curbside—the dramatic loss of ashes is hitting particularly hard and close to home.

Thanks to for the baseball bat sound, and to Max Ragozzino for the audio from his talk.  We close with a few seconds of music that reminds us of one way that people can and do respond to watershed and landscape challenges resulting from tree loss: “Grandad Planted Trees,” by Bob Gramann of Fredericksburg.

MUSIC - ~19 sec


For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show.   In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The baseball bat/cheering sound was recorded by user AmishRob (dated January 21, 2014), and made available for public use by, at online at, under the Creative Commons Attribution License.   For more information on Creative Commons licenses, please see; information on the Attribution License specifically is online at

The paddling sound was recorded by Virginia Water Radio on the Potomac River on June 11, 2010.  The train sounds were recorded by Virginia Water Radio in Pulaksi, Va., on August 31, 2013.

The audio of Max Ragozzino was excerpted from his first-place presentation at the “Nutshell Games” conducted on March 2, 2017, for the opening celebration of Virginia Tech’s Center for Communicating Science (online at  Virginia Water Radio thanks Mr. Ragozzino for permission to use this audio.   The full presentation, along with the other two first-place presentations from that day, is available online at  Information on the event is available online in New center focuses on the art of communicating science effectively, Virginia Tech News, 2/28/17; and Understandable communication aim of first 'Nutshell Games', Roanoke Times, 3/3/17. 

“Grandad Planted Trees,” from the 2004 album of the same name, is copyright by Bob Gramann, used with permission.  More information about Bob Gramann is available online at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at

Thanks to the following people who provided information for this episode:
U.S. Forest Service: Tom Brandeis, James Vogt, and Anita Rose;
Virginia Department of Forestry: Lori Chamberlin;
Virginia Tech Department of Biological Sciences: Fred Benfield;
Virginia Tech Department of Entomology: Eric Day;
Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Conservation: Mike Aust, Harold Burkhart, Jacob Diamond, Jen Gagnon, Kevin McGuire, Daniel McLaughlin, John Peterson, and John Seiler.

Map provided by Lori Chamberlain, Virginia Department of Forestry, 6/30/17, showing confirmed presence of Emerald Ash Borer in over 50 Virginia counties.
Twin ash trees on the edge of the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, July 8, 2017.
Ash tree showing likely signs of invasion by the Emerald Ash Borer (loss of canopy, plus emergence of small side branches), at the Virginia Tech Duck Pond, Blacksburg, July 8, 2017.
Tracks of the Emerald Ash Borer on a dead ash tree along the Staunton River in Long Island Park, Campbell County, Va., June 15, 2017.
Tree planting along a tributary to Stroubles Creek on Virginia Tech agricultural land in Blacksburg, March 26, 2016.

Used in Audio

Chris Asaro, “The Emerald Ash Borer Marches On,” Virginia Forest Health Review, January 2013, online (as PDF) at

Samuel H. Austin, Riparian Forest Handbook 1: Appreciating and Evaluating Stream Side Forests, Virginia Department of Forestry, Charlottesville, 2000, online (as PDF) at

Lori Chamberlain, “Emerald Ash Borer,” Virginia Forest Health Review, January 2017, online (as PDF) at

Emerald Ash Borer Information Network, online at

S.D. Day and S. B. Dickinson, eds., “Managing Stormwater for Urban Sustainability Using Trees and Structural Soils,” Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, 2008, online (as PDF) at

Great Lakes Coalition, “Replanting Trees Following Emerald Ash Borer Infestation Reduces Stormwater Runoff, Improves Lake Michigan Water Quality,” 6/7/17, online at

Sanglin Lee and Alan Raflo, “Trees and Water,” online at

Gary M. Lovett et al., “Forest Ecosystem Responses to Exotic Pests and Pathogens in Eastern North America,” Bioscience Vol. 56, No. 5 (May 2006), pages 395-405.

Mad River Canoe, “Choosing a Paddle: Material,” online at

Mitchell Paddles, “Whitewater Kayak Paddle/Slasher,” online at

David J. Nowak, “The Effects of Urban Trees on Air Quality,” U.S. Forest Service/Syracuse, N.Y., 2002, online (as PDF) at

Old Hickory Bat Company, “Three Major Wood Types: Maple, Ash, and Birch,” online at

Railway Tie Association, “Frequently Asked Questions” online at (scroll down to “Types of Wood for Ties”).

Anita K. Rose, “Forests of Virginia 2014,” U.S. Forest Service, published 2016, online at

Anita K. Rose, USDA Forest Inventory and Analysis Program, “State Inventory Data Status-Virginia,” online at

Anita K. Rose and James S. Meadows, “Status and Trends of Bottomland Hardwood Forests in the Mid‑Atlantic Region,” USDA/Forest Service Southern Research Station, Asheville, N.C., November 2016, online at

Scott Salom and Eric Day, “Hemlock Wooly Adelgid,” Virginia Cooperative Extension (Publication 3006-1451/ENTO-228NP), Blacksburg, 2016, online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, “Asian Longhorned Beetle,” online at; and “Gypsy Moth,” online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Service, “Plants Data Base,” online at

U.S. Forest Service/Northern Research Station [Newtown Square, Penn.], “Forest Disturbance Processes/Invasive Species,” online at”

Virginia Department of Forestry:
“Forest Facts,” online at;
“2016 State of the Forest,” online (as PDF) at;
“Tree Disease and Insect Guide for Hardwoods,” online at;
“Tree Disease and Insect Guide for Conifers,” online at

Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, “Virginia Tech Dendrology Fact Sheets,” online at  White Ash landowner fact sheet is online at  Green Ash landowner fact sheet is online at

For More Information about the Emerald Ash Borer

Anthony D’Amato et al., “Ecological and hydrological impacts of the emerald ash borer on black ash forests,” Northeast Climate Science Center, online at

Daniel A. Herms, et al., "Insecticide Options for Protecting Ash Trees from Emerald Ash Borer/2nd Edition," North Central IPM Center Bulletin, 2014, online (as PDF) at

Maryland Department of Natural Resources, “Emerald Ash Borer,” online at

New York Riverkeeper, “Beware the Emerald Ash Borer: Our forests and water quality at risk,” 9/24/15 blog post, online at

Purdue University Entomology Extension, “Emerald Ash Borer Cost Calculator,” online at

Clifford S. Sadof et al., “Tools for Staging and Managing Emerald Ash Borer in the Urban Forest,” Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Vol. 43, No. 1, January 2017, online (as PDF) at

ADDED 11/27/17:
Timothy Wheeler, “Scientists using costly triage to spare some ash trees from extinction;
Pesticide, wasps deployed in forests along Bay rivers in bid to limit onslaught by emerald ash borers,” Bay Journal, 10/17/17.

For More Information about Invasive Species Generally

National Invasive Species Council, online at  According to its Web site, “[o]n February 3, 1999, Executive Order 13112 established the National Invasive Species Council to ‘provide national leadership regarding invasive species.’


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above ( See particularly the “Plants” subject category.

Previous episodes on trees include the following:
Episode 84, 10/17/11 – maple trees, featuring “Wind in the Maples/Sugartree Branch” by Timothy Seaman;
Episode 153, 3/18/13 – trees' human and ecological benefits, featuring “Grandad Planted Trees” by Bob Gramann;
Episode 160, 5/6/13 – forestry, featuring “Piney Mountains” by Bruce Molsky;
Episode 176, 8/26/13 – sycamores, featuring “Sycamore Rapids” by Timothy Seaman;
Episode 238, 10/31/14 – Witch Hazel;
Episode 285, 10/9/15 – tree colors and changes in fall, and tree structures for water movement, featuring “Colors” by John McCutcheon.

A previous episode on invasive species (plants and animals) is Episode 321, 6/20/16, featuring “I’m a Hog for You, Baby” by No Strings Attached.


This episode may help with the following Virginia 2010 Science SOLs:

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
3.10- impacts on survival of species.
4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Life Processes Theme
3.4 - behavioral and physiological adaptations.
4.4 – basic plant anatomy and processes.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
4.5 - ecosystem interactions and human influences on ecosystem.
6.7 - natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.8 - community and population interactions, including food webs, niches, symbiotic relationships.
LS.10 - changes over time in ecosystems, communities, and populations, and factors affecting those changes, including climate changes and catastrophic disturbances.
LS.11 - relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science Course
ES.8 - influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia.

Biology Course
BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2015 Social Studies SOL:

World Geography Course
WG.2 - how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at