In target, scope, and sheer lethal speed, the obliteration of the American chestnut is an ecological disaster without precedent.
The towering trees — redwoods of the east, some called them — were a foundational species in the forests that stretched from southwestern Ontario to Georgia. In some parts, one in four trees was an American chestnut. The trees were a refuge for hundreds of species and a thrumming industry: its wood was so hardy that chestnut fences still stake Ontario fields.
Then, in less than 50 years, the trees were gone. An exotic blight, accidentally carried over on an Asian chestnut variety, began infecting American chestnuts as the 20th century dawned. By 1950, up to four billion trees had died, two million of them in Ontario, wiping out 99.9 per cent of the species and radically reshaping the forests it once dominated. read more >>