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Managing ash in windbreaks or other buffer forests

Windbreaks and shelterbelts
Windbreaks and shelterbelts are trees and shrubs that are planted along boundaries of farm fields, with the primary objective of buffering wind. Benefits of a well designed and healthy windbreak are reduced erosion of topsoil, reduced home and barn heating costs, reduced snow removal costs, improved moisture capture, improved crop pollination, improved crop yield and protection of livestock.

These buffers rely upon trees that can withstand wind, and ash is a common component. If these ash trees are killed by emerald ash borer (EAB) the function of the windbreak will be impaired. For a windbreak to function, no more than 25% of its trees can be dead (or less in a windbreak with a single row of trees) and there should be no large gaps. So, if more than 25% of the windbreak trees are ash, or if it arranged such that killed ash will cause a large gap to form, proactive measures need to be taken to preserve the function of the windbreak.

Similar to planning for the woodlot, the goal is to maximize tree health, tree diversity and understory regeneration in windbreaks. Retain healthy seed trees of a range of non-ash species. If there is minimal natural regeneration, especially where there is an abundance of ash, underplanting may be necessary to ensure the windbreak remains functional. Invasive plant species may need to be managed to allow effective understory regeneration since these linear forests are especially prone to invasion by aggressive plants.

Riparian buffer strips
Riparian buffers are planted between farm fields and surface water in order to reduce the movement of soil, chemicals and bacteria into the water body. If there is a large component of ash in a riparian buffer, manage it in a similar manner to windbreaks.

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