A blight resistance gene (oxalate oxidase) has been added by state university researchers in new york. The genetically modified trees are being crossed with pure-bred chestnuts for improved genetic diversity before wider distribution.
The plan is to distribute seeds from these trees within 5 years through a partnership between SUNY-ESF and the NY chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation.
I've committed to planting at least 4500 of these trees (interspersed across 60+ acres) in their native forest setting once available. If you care about the chestnut or ecology but agroforestry isn't your thing, these organizations could really use donations to ensure this project continues.
My parents are also doing this on their property, it is exciting, and I hope this new breed is resistant to the fungus.
Of course the proof is a forest of full grown trees, but there's every reason to expect this method will get us there.
They designed a brand new type of testing for resistance to be able to make the progress they've made as quickly as they have. Instead of testing a whole tree they can effectively test blight resistance on a single leaf, allowing their time between generations to be measured in weeks rather than years. (Time to first leaf, rather than time to whole tree).
I am very excited. What was strange is that in order to accept the trees, you had to agree to an entire set of restrictions. You can not sell any nuts was one; another was you must cut down the tree if you ever sell your property, I suppose there is an exception if the new owner also signs onto to the agreement. Seemed a little awkward, but still worth it.
Where specifically should we donate? Can we donate labor as well?
And an honorable mention to black cherry, a tree of the region with edible fruit.
I doubt that is true anymore. Maybe 1/3?
It's a similar story. The species was accidentally introduced from Asia in the 1990s, and it's spreading dramatically across the continent. No effective strategy has been discovered to stop the destruction as of yet.
About a month after they took the trees down, we had the worst thunderstorm in years. Lost power for three days due to dozens of uprooted (non-Ash!) trees. I can't imagine the carnage had those trees still been up.
It died two years ago.
I loathe invasive species.
One question about the article: why do they say "technically extinct" and not just "extinct"?
I also wonder---if we get chestnuts back up to their 19th-century numbers, what species will suffer as a result? Similarly to how coyotes are suffering from the reintroduction of gray wolves. I'm fine with attempting to restore the previous equilibrium, but it's good to be aware of all the consequences.
In terms of wildlife, there is no downside: the chestnut produces a larger mast than oak/hickory, and it produces every year instead of biennially. Its nut is starchy rather than oily. Chestnuts simply produce more food for humans and wildlife than the forest can otherwise. Its loss was simply a huge loss for the ecosystem.
and pour gallons of pesticide on it...
"Salvage logging during the early years of the blight may have unwittingly destroyed trees which had high levels of resistance to this disease and thus aggravated the calamity."
One of many good examples of humanities best intentions having adverse effects on an ecosystem or species.
The economic effects of "the invisible hand", whereby voluntary exchange yields benefits to both parties and provides an economic surplus, is a "win-win" whereby both parties are better off.
This is not without possible negative effects ("negative externalities") but it is the most effective way to improve people's lives we've found so far.
Remember that nature and natural selection works by a more damaging mechanism - "take what you can" - and yet still manages to produce beneficial results - though obviously not better for every individual or species.
It leads to the liquidation of a valuable long-term resource for a quick short-term gain. A fishery that would be worth many billions over centuries is liquidated for millions in a few years, for example.
This is especially true in the US, where so many plants and animals did not live within a system of property. The American bison was saved only because one or two landowner had a sentimental attachment to a local herd and spared them from the carnage. The passenger pigeon was exterminated for cheap meat with industrial hunting methods. Markets create positive sum games, but this was just destruction.
The opportunity cost of billions of American chestnuts producing valuable nuts and timber over the last century is incalculable.
"You reap what you sow" is an idiom that simply says everything that happens to you is a result of your own actions.  It does have a religious context that has a more negative, connotation however.
Also, as I showed in the sibling post, we've known about the negative effects of salvage logging for at least 20 years. We're still doing it, by the way. 
Humanity will also "reap what it sows" in regards to our lack of action on regards to climate change. I intend to make no positive or negative claim. Simply stating the facts (I hope).
> "the term 'salvage' is appropriate for operations in which the primary objective of postfire logging is economic..."
From the link the parent posted, it sounds like there's little evidence that it does any of that (the things you mentioned).  
The one paper cited on Wikipedia as being pro-logging goes against it in the conclusion:
> "We know enough about both logging activity and structural change to recommend caution. Although ground-based logging activity could mitigate for erosion problems under certain conditions, it is more likely that it will either have no effect or produce more sediment than that is produced by the fire..." 
This was published in 2000. I stand by my original comment. Humanity reaps what it sows.
I'd be interested to see contradicting evidence if there is any. My comment came from reading the Wikipedia article.
 pg 1. http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/195...
 pg 21. http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/195...
If 4 billion trees were affected in only a few years, people couldn't have chopped down so many trees, couldn't they? If there were natural resistant chest nuts at least a few should have endured.
I still find myself looking for them sometimes, have spotted a few here and there, many old giants that keep trying to send up shoots only to have them re-infected and die again.
I'm really hoping biotech will advance far enough to A) stop the anthropocene extinction and B) eventually reverse it, if not by reviving species then by creating new and wonderful additions to our ecosystems.
On an odder tangent, this is also part of why I'm really excited about space habitats and eventual Mars habitats. When we start creating massive enclosed spaces where we fully control the conditions, I think we'll start seeing some beautiful engineered ecosystems. Utilitarian stuff at first, like those ugly-yet-functional urban hydroponics setups you see today, but eventually I'm hopeful we'll create some 'natural' beauty.
Ignorance befell twice when people failed to realize a bird that would "darken the skies" could go extinct like any creature and that their breeding habits weren't as straight forward as one would assume. Passenger pigeons would only breed in large flocks, so by the time that anyone realized they were doomed and tried to breed them, there weren't enough pigeons left to form a flock of significant size.
Some might argue the pigeons or even the chestnut/elm/ash are not a regrettable loss, but miss the point--that our assumption we can easily undo the damage we cause to the planet is not always possible. The trees might make a comeback from genetic engineering eventually, but bringing animals back from extinction is still more theory than application.
I wonder why the trees are beautiful to us.. Maybe because we are used to them and connect nice memories to the image of trees?
Modifying what already exists is usually easier than creating something from nothing, and I would expect that to apply for engineering new organisms.
If you mean will the ecosystems be beautiful to us, as in, will a forest in a space station really be a forest, or more of a gaudy tourist attraction and/or a sterile research environment, I'm hopeful that we'll choose to include some allowance for beauty in our planning.
Kim Stanley Robertson's Mars trilogy touches on these themes a lot, and I'm also drawing to some degree from the Culture series' vision of orbitals. We're clearly centuries (at least) from being able to build orbitals, but I think far smaller ring structures - and even more likely mere two-body tether set ups - may be just decades ahead.
Seriously, try to get some chestnuts and roast them (oven or microwave) with some salt. They are delicious, especially during the cold months.
The American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation breeds genetically pure blight-resistant American chestnuts and plants thousands (4,090 in 2015) of seeds every year in an effort to grow genetically pure blight-resistant saplings. http://accf-online.org/
The American Chestnut Foundation spent decades back-crossing American chestnuts with Chinese chestnuts to develop a variety with the characteristics of the American tree and the blight resistance of the Chinese one. Since getting nuts in 2005, they've planted hundreds of trees in national parks; there's an orchard of a dozen in our city's nature center; there are thousands planted at the Flight 93 memorial alone. https://www.npca.org/articles/939-cracking-the-nut http://www.acf.org/
Chestnuts are similar to American bison: only a few very small bison herds are genetically pure; but there are numerous large herds of American bison with a small amount of domestic cow genes.
We still have lots of chestnut trees in France, I hope it stays that way.
I'll continue to keep secret the location of the small grove of ancient mature trees where I gather the nuts each year. If word got out you'd have the crazies showing up wanting to cut them all down.
For the curious: http://imgur.com/a/eis4a
My parents have one in their front yard they planted around 30 years ago from a sapling they found while camping. It makes me wonder if it's a resistant strain.
Long gone now :\
Curious question- is there a law against CRISPR-terrorism?
Not long ago this would have been rendered as, "There once were four billion American chestnut trees, all now gone." People are no longer learning how to write, they're learning how to type.
While reading your version I also wondered why you might go with "There once were" rather than "There were once"?
We all have our own pet peeves, though. I weep at the loss of the subjunctive in English (For most usages it's "I wish I WERE there", not "I wish I WAS there", dammit!!!)
I just see too many uses of "There used to be", which to me is a crude way to concatenate two stock phrases without reflection, but in a awkward way that grates on my ear. Also I think Strunk & White's concision emphasis still rings true.
> I also wondered why you might go with "There once were" rather than "There were once"?
Voicing the candidates shows the difference. I imagine speaking anything I write, which reveals phrasings that would be hard to say out loud.
> We all have our own pet peeves, though. I weep at the loss of the subjunctive in English (For most usages it's "I wish I WERE there", not "I wish I WAS there", dammit!!!)
I have a funny story about that. A depressed child enters the kitchen and says, "I wish I was dead!" The child's mother says, "Oh no! Not that! Don't you mean 'I wish I were dead'?" :)
> Also, the "all now gone" phrase in your alternate strikes me as somewhat awkward.
Perhaps, but in my view not compared to "They all disappeared," which suggests proactive agency (did they run away?) rather than passive fate.
Ah, I see your point. Sadly I think a generation or two of teachers maniacally chastising their students for ever using the passive form could have something to do with this.
Even in this forum, you'll find plenty of people saying that all writing need be direct, simple, and brief. There's virtue in that for quick memoranda, but to say that there's no place in the world for complex, abstract writing or the expression of nuance in careful word choice (as you describe) is a real shame. Too often I've been corrected by people who say "you mean 'I wish I _was_' because the subject is singular".
There's some evidence that language is what makes abstract thought even possible. Perhaps we're leaving our minds unable to comprehend abstractions when we reduce that available in our language. More discussion is at https://neuroanthropology.net/2010/07/21/life-without-langua....
Or maybe I just need to get over it. I overcame my violent aversion to starting sentences with "or" and "and", after all.
Yes, I agree. Einstein was supposed to have said something to the effect that if we can't explain something in a few words, then we don't really understand it. I think he said that before creating general relativity, which can't be explained in a few words. :)
> There's some evidence that language is what makes abstract thought even possible.
Yes, or in any case some abstract notation scheme, some organizing/categorizing symbol set. Like mathematics, which is more than its notation but that (for most people) can't be sustained without the notation.
Apropos, did you know pure math notation can support jokes? Here's my favorite:
8i = ∞
> I overcame my violent aversion to starting sentences with "or" and "and", after all.
In the 1970s I noticed Texas Instruments beginning certain advertising promotional sentences with "And." I saw it as a way to add emphasis to what might otherwise have been a series of short sentences; phrases partitioned with semicolons and other similar devices. So I started using it. And never gave it up. :)
By the way, I stole the earlier "writing/typing" meme from Truman Capote, who supposedly said it about some of his contemporaries whom he regarded as hacks.
I'd say that's more a pun than a joke.
There have been and are blight resistant trees developed through conventional breeding programs.
I have hybrids on my own property that are blight resistant. There are some that are 95%+ American chestnut genetics and are not blight susceptible. There are programmes in both Canada and the U.S. breeding these trees.
Marker assisted selection might be used which I suppose is a kind of GM technology, but there is no need to resort to gene _editing_ or _splicing_. That is a far more expensive and has the disadvantage of having extremely bad PR.
Same thing for the non-browning apple, BTW. There was no _need_ beyond availability of funding and various ag department/company politics to resort to GM for that. There have been non-browning apple strains around since the 19th century.
I should also point out that there are rare instances of what appear to be naturally blight resistant mature trees in the wild found here or there. Maybe they're natural hybrids, or just lucky to avoid the blight, but if you find one, various breeding groups would love to know.
You paint this as being a 'gmo posterchild' when clearly, it is humans, scrambling with Every technology at our disposal, to save a species. Your whole rambling post harbors the implicit notion that 'GMO BAD, "Natural" GOOD' with no statement to support that backward notion.
The GM strains are superior in apples for a plethora of reasons, or they would use your obscure, bitter, non-browning, and less disease resistant apples requiring even more pesticides. But they do not.
I concede that quite likely we can use thousand year old tech to accomplish these goals. However the timeframe may be much longer (omitting red tape) for a result, and time is of the essence.
If you can substantiate the unsaid evils of GM vs breeding by selected random mutations, please, be my guest.
I am not even anti-GM. Nowhere in my comment did I say GM was evil. Go back and actually read. I'm trying to point out a fact: mass selection has advantages, GMO in the "gene splicing" way is here is not necessary, and is a _political_ liability. You want to reforest the wild with GMO organisms? It won't be me trying to stop you, but others definitely will. So it's a dumb way to do it.
BTW, what I am talking about is not "thousand year old tech" -- mass selection breeding is under a century old. Luther Burbank died in 1926. And mass selection is now done with marker assistance, a very modern "GM" technology.
_Would_ that medieval monks knew anything about breeding and mass selection. They did not.
Also you might want to do some research before making claims about non-browning apples that you can't back up with facts.
It is you who are violating the community standards of HN with your personal attacks. Do not call someone's comments drivel -- especially if you can't even be bothered to read them.
Planting a ton of Chestnut trees, maybe mixing in come Chinese genes, and re-breeding the ones that seem immune is probably the fastest, cheapest way to get immune trees again.
Side thought, is the company making GMO Chestnuts going to have IP on the seeds? That seems like it would create some bad incentives recreate this whole scenario with other tree species -Kill all the 'native', free trees of some species, reintroduce your expensive super-tree.
No. The ACF's only problem is insufficient funding -> insufficient production.