Pre-Blight Chestnut Mast Estimates

By Bill Adamsen – Wilton, CT
Director of The American Chestnut Foundation, President, CT Chapter

Several months ago a friend sent a link to an article which provides evidence that chestnut really was a dependable source of food for wildlife – something frequently mentioned – but without documentation. After reading the article Hard Mast Production Before and After the
Chestnut Blight
I thought more CT Chapter members might appreciate the opportunity to read it. It provides a comparison of estimated hard nut production in a Southern Appalachian forest that happened to be assessed carefully at the time of the blight, for hardwood composition.

The immediate impression the article had on me – was realization of the impact the loss of a high volume producer (chestnut) must have had on wildlife. Looking at the graph below (or reading the referenced article) one is struck by how dissimilar the large year-to-year variability in mast production among oaks is to chestnuts (the bright green section on histogram bars to left). The loss of American chestnut must have greatly increased mortality for many mammals and birds which would have depended on the stable and consistent food supply chestnut provided.

The below graph uses the data provided in Hard Mast Production Before and After the
Chestnut Blight
to display calculated total hard mast production for a 10 yr interval in a Coweeta Basin forest before and approximataly 35 years after the chestnut blight epidemic.
All data by Diamond, Giles, Kirkpatrick and Griffin
Graph formatting by Bill Adamsen

The publication is available on-line. The authors are Seth J. Diamond, Robert H. Giles, Jr., and Roy L. Kirkpatrick, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, and Gary J. Griffin, Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Thanks to Leila Pinchot for forwarding the article.

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Bill Adamsen

Bill Adamsen

Bill Adamsen is a member of the CT Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) Board of Directors. He served as Chapter President for eight years.

Bill Adamsen

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