The EAB Gallery project serves as a means of understanding plant-fungal ecologies in the face of climate change and ecosystem disturbance. As a speculative investigation, the relationship between Ash Trees, Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), and the Honey Mushroom was curated within an offsite observatory so that this unique succession could be revealed and discussed.
EAB is short for Emerald Ash Borer, a tiny, iridescent green beetle that feasts on the flesh of Ash trees (Fraxinus spp.). Before EAB, Ash dominated the North American forest, however, in places like New York, you’re more likely to see them dead than alive. An EAB Gallery is a term used to describe an ash-dominant forest stand where the effects of an EAB attack can be observed.
Serving as an art installation and laboratory, the offsite EAB Gallery enables an intimate view of succession formed by the presence of EAB and the consequent restructuring of an Ash Forest ecology. It is a space to speculate on the future of the forest, one that considers the predator-prey dynamics in play at both the macro and micro scales. Research shows that an increase in fungal interaction with Ash Trees might also be their saving grace, so while the tree may not survive, there is hope for the forest.
Researchers have found that the presence of EAB has enabled fungal ecologies to proliferate in Ash-dominant forests. Ash is a pioneering species and holds resistance to fungal infection, however, as it is weakened by an EAB attack, it becomes a new host for fungal predators. One such opportunist is Armillaria mellea, more commonly known as the Honey Mushroom.
Normally resistant, Ash becomes susceptible to the Honey Mushroom, a parasitic fungus that taps into the roots and body of its host when it is weakened. Interestingly, Honey Mushroom mycelium is bioluminescent and glows in the dark when disturbed. So, as the forest fights back, the Honey Mushroom’s light signifies the battle for life and death.
Three pieces of EAB scoured Ash trees were collected from the "real" EAB gallery and inoculated with Honey Mushroom mycelium. Each piece was then placed in a ventilated container, kept moist, and monitored for mycelial growth. Mycelial growth was detected as early as 1 week after inoculation.