Wood-based technology creates electricity from heat

A University of Maryland-led team of researchers has created a heat-to-electricity device that runs on ions and which could someday harness the body’s heat to provide energy.

A University of Maryland-led team of researchers has created a heat-to-electricity device that runs on ions and which could someday harness the body’s heat to provide energy.

Source: Wood-based technology creates electricity from heat – Phys.org, 2019-03-25

Hidden giants in forest soils

Only a fraction of the microbes residing in, on and around soils have been identified through efforts to understand their contributions to global nutrient cycles. Soils are also home to countless viruses that can infect microbes, impacting their ability to regulate these global cycles. In Nature Communications, giant virus genomes have been discovered for the first time in a forest soil ecosystem by researchers from the DOE Joint Genome Institute and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Characterizing the diversity of microbial cells in a handful of soil is so complex it was considered impossible. To date, only a small fraction of the microbes residing in, on and around soils have been identified as part of efforts to understand their contributions to the global carbon cycle, and to other nutrient cycles. Soils are also home to countless viruses that can infect microbes, impacting their ability to regulate these global cycles.

Reported November 19, 2018, in Nature Communications, giant virus genomes have been discovered for the first time in a forest soil ecosystem by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass Amherst). As the name implies, giant viruses are characterized by disproportionately large genomes and virions that house the viruses’ genetic material. They have been frequently found within protists and algae, and thus they are believed to have a significant impact on their hosts’ population dynamics and the planet’s biogeochemical cycles.

Source: Hidden giants in forest soils – EurekAlert, 2018-11-19

UPM and FSC® announce a global strategic partnership

UPM and the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) announce a global strategic partnership to develop solutions for advancing the uptake of FSC in the market. UPM and FSC signed the partnership agreement on the 16th of May 2017 during the FSC international members meeting in Karkkila, Finland. The partnership aims at delivering benefits to forest owners through FSC certification and to increase the FSC-certified wood supply.

UPM has actively cooperated with FSC both on international and national level for several years. The company has been involved in developing the FSC certification in order to enhance its applicability to the fragmented private forest ownership in Finland. This work will be strengthened through the newly agreed partnership.

Source: UPM and FSC® announce a global strategic partnership – GlobeNewswire, 2017-05-17

Termite gut holds a secret to breaking down plant biomass

In the Microbial Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the incredibly efficient eating habits of a fungus-cultivating termite are surprising even to those well acquainted with the insect’s natural gift for turning wood to dust.

According to a study published today (April 17, 2017) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, when poplar wood undergoes a short, 3.5-hour transit through the gut of the termite, the emerging feces is almost devoid of lignin, the hard and abundant polymer that gives plant cells walls their sturdiness. As lignin is notorious for being difficult to degrade, and remains a costly obstacle for wood processing industries such as biofuels and paper, the termite is the keeper of a highly sought after secret: a natural system for fully breaking down biomass.

“The speed and efficiency with which the termite is breaking down the lignin polymer is totally unexpected,” says John Ralph, a UW-Madison professor of biochemistry, researcher at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) and lignin expert. “The tantalizing implication is that this gut system holds keys to breaking down lignin using processes that are completely unknown.”

Source: Termite gut holds a secret to breaking down plant biomass – EurekAlert! Science News, 2017-04-17

Greenhouse gas effect from mangrove forest conversion is quite significant

Clear-cutting of tropical mangrove forests to create shrimp ponds and cattle pastures contributes significantly to the greenhouse gas effect, one of the leading causes of global warming, new research suggests.

A seven-year study, led by Oregon State University and the Center for International Forestry Research, spanned five countries across the topics from Indonesia to the Dominican Republic. The researchers concluded that mangrove conversion to agricultural uses resulted in a land-use carbon footprint of 1,440 pounds of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere for the production of every pound of beef; and 1,603 pounds of released carbon dioxide for every pound of shrimp.

Source: Greenhouse gas effect caused by mangrove forest conversion is quite significant – EurekAlert! Science News, 2017-04-10

Trimble to Offer Complete System for Forestry Supply Chain Management with Acquisition of BOS Forestry

Trimble (TRMB) announced today that it has acquired Canadian-based BOS Forestry, a provider of collaboration, harvesting, production and lumber sale solutions for small- and medium-sized forestry companies. The addition of BOS Forestry emphasizes Trimble’s focus on technologies that address the complete end-to-end ecosystem for forest management, traceability and timber processing. Financial terms were not disclosed.

BOS Forestry’s suite of applications provide simplified processes for scale site, log load, yard inventory, contractor settlement, finished goods sales and distribution. In addition, BOS offers a trade portal that facilitates the collaboration of wood supply stakeholders and brings together an innovative network for buyers and sellers to make more informed decisions and improve fiber productivity by leveraging all aggregated log load data transactions. The integration of BOS Trade into Trimble’s Connected Forest portfolio provides a key component to enable transparency and visibility across the fiber business.

Trimble’s Connected Forest solutions manage the full raw materials lifecycle of planning, planting, growing, harvesting, transporting and processing. The solutions improve decision making at every step—from forest to mill and from land acquisition to product delivery­—by combining industry-specialized software and state-of-the-art hardware into solutions for land, forest and fiber management. Trimble offers the most comprehensive supply chain solutions available to the forest industry today.

Source: Trimble to Offer Complete End-to-End Ecosystem for Forestry Supply Chain Management with Acquisition of BOS Forestry – PRNewswire, 2017-04-10

Researchers predict increasing decline of hemlock as winters warm

By Margaret Nagle
Land managers in New England and eastern New York state have a new tool to help identify eastern hemlock stands at greatest risk for rapid growth decline by evaluating stresses on the trees, including response to the hemlock woolly adelgid and changes resulting from a warming climate.

Today, an estimated 26 percent of the region’s hemlock stands are at high risk. As winters get warmer, the decline will increase, with 43 percent of stands expected to be at high risk, according to a research team led by University of Maine Associate Professor of Forest Resources William Livingston.

The researchers’ comprehensive landscape model maps the varied response to the invasive Asian insect across the Northeast, and identified the site characteristics of stands with the highest potential for tolerance and recovery in order to prioritize management efforts.

Eastern hemlock is a towering foundational species in eastern North American forests valued from southern Canada to Alabama and as far west as Minnesota. But since the mid-20th century, eastern hemlock that can live more than 500 years have been increasingly threatened by the hemlock woolly adelgid that can kill a tree within four years by feeding on its needles and branches, preventing new growth.

Using changes in tree rings — basal area increment (BAI) measurement — in mature hemlock, the researchers quantified annual growth decline in 41 hemlock stands across New England representing a range of infestation density and duration, and species vigor. The model also was applied to 15 hemlock sites in Massachusetts.

Among the findings of the research team using the growth decline metric: Eastern hemlock sited on steeper slopes with increased exposure to solar radiation and warmer January minimum temperatures have a greater probability of experiencing rapid decline.

The results of the study, which involved researchers from UMaine, the University of Vermont and LandVest Inc., in Portland, Maine, were published in the journal Biological Invasions.

Source: UMaine-led team predicts increasing decline of hemlock as winters warm – UMaine News – University of Maine, 2017-04-07

Dust contributes valuable nutrients to Sierra Nevada forest ecosystems

Collecting dust isn’t usually considered a good thing.

But dust from as close as California’s Central Valley and as far away as Asia’s Gobi Desert provides nutrients, especially phosphorus, to vegetation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a team of scientists has found. Their study, published in the journal Nature Communications, highlights the importance of dust and the phosphorus it carries in sustaining plant life.

The researchers examined soil samples from four sites at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory (SSCZO) in the Sierra National Forest, at elevations from 1,300 feet to 8,800 feet. The SSCZO is part of a network of nine NSF Critical Zone Observatories across the United States and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

The critical zone — Earth’s living environment — is the region between the top of the forest canopy and the base of weathered rock.

The zone consists of multiple interactive processes, including the water cycle, the breakdown of rocks and the formation of soil, the evolution of rivers and valleys, the patterns of vegetation, and the form and function of the Earth. Scientists at all nine CZO sites study this zone and its response to climate and land use changes.

“The CZO network was set up to carry out research that integrates physical, geochemical and biological measurements from the subsurface through the land surface, giving us the ability to improve management of these rapidly changing landscapes,” said University of California, Merced scientist Roger Bales, who leads the SSCZO.

The research team — including geochemists, a geomorphologist, ecosystem ecologists and microbial ecologists from UC Merced, UC Riverside, the University of Michigan and University of Wyoming — worked to quantify the importance of transoceanic and regional dust as a nutrient source to Sierra Nevada ecosystems. They used household items — for example, Bundt pans filled with marbles attached to wooden posts — to capture dust. They also studied microbes hitchhiking on dust particles to pinpoint the dust’s origins.

“Dust provides important inputs of phosphorus to Sierra Nevada ecosystems,” said UC Merced scientist Stephen Hart, a co-author of the paper. “The dust brings critical nutrients [such as phosphorus] for maintaining plant productivity in these mountain environments. Dust inputs may increase as land use in the Central Valley intensifies and as the climate changes in the future.”

Source: Dust contributes valuable nutrients to Sierra Nevada forest ecosystems – NSF – National Science Foundation, 17-03-28

Global Trade of Softwood Lumber up 66 Percent in Seven Years while Lumber Prices Have Fallen

Global softwood lumber trade increased 12 percent year-over-year to reach a new record-high of 121 million m3 in 2016, per estimates by WRI. Since the global financial recession in 2009, there has been a steady climb in international trade of lumber, with shipments the past seven years having increased as much as 66 percent.

Since the global financial recession in 2009, there has been a steady climb in international trade of lumber, with shipments the past seven years having increased as much as 66 percent. While it is no surprise that China is a major driver for the dramatic rise in lumber shipments worldwide the past seven years, it is interesting to note that the US has actually increased softwood lumber imports more than China.

Source: Global Trade of Softwood Lumber has Gone up 66 Percent in Seven Years, While Lumber Prices Have Fallen Substantially Over the Same Time-period – MarketWatch, 2017-03-10

EU researchers aim to halve CO2 footprint of carbon fiber production

Researchers from across Europe, led by University of Limerick (UL), Ireland, have begun a project to produce carbon fiber from forestry by-products.

Carbon fiber is a reinforcement which when added to plastic improves its mechanical properties thereby forming a composite material. Composites are used in many products including automotive parts and wind-turbine blades. However, carbon fiber is currently produced from petroleum which is expensive and detrimental to the environment.
The LIBRE project, led by Dr Maurice Collins of the Stokes Labs, Bernal Institute at UL, aims to create carbon fiber materials in a cost-effective and more environmentally friendly way, by producing them from a naturally derived wood product called ‘lignin’.
“The production of carbon fiber from lignin will allow us to move away from the reliance on fossil fuel,” Dr Collins explained.

Source: EU researchers aim to halve CO2 footprint of carbon fiber production – Phys.org, 2017-03-06