From those clones, they are now working to isolate germplasm with desired traits — including resistance to Dutch elm disease, which impedes water transport and nutrient flow in the infected trees — for future elm breeding and biotechnology programs, which could lead to a revival of the species in its former habitat.
Between this and continuing efforts to breed blight-resistant American chestnut trees, we’re on the cusp of a new phase of anthropogenic succession. Not that anthropogenic succession is anything new—we’ve been changing the composition of landscapes on this continent for thousands of years. American Indians first brought fire, settlers later suppressed it, and the rise in global trade has introduced thousands of alien species and pathogens. Climate change and breeding programs are only the latest addition. The future of the forest is—as always—in flux.