Vanderbilt created the Cradle of Forestry

By Robert Beanblossom
Nestled in a mountainous valley known as the Pink Beds is the Cradle of Forestry in America, a national historic site. This spot in the heart of the Pisgah National Forest is aptly named for it is the birthplace of scientific forestry in the United States.

This story begins in early 1888. That year a wealthy young man, George Washington Vanderbilt, traveled to the nearby town of Asheville along with his mother, who sought relief from malarial-like symptoms. Dr. S. Westray Battle, a retired U.S. Navy surgeon and a highly respected pulmonary specialist with a practice there, subsequently provided Mrs. Vanderbilt’s medical treatment while she and her son stayed at the posh Battery Park Hotel.

The clean air, scenic mountains and natural beauty of the area quickly captivated Vanderbilt, a widely-traveled, well-read individual, who considered himself a poet at heart.

Consequently, he fell in love with this land and immediately decided to build a luxurious mansion, later named Biltmore, and to purchase property. By 1895 he could claim ownership to more than 125,000 acres of forest land; but much of it had been heavily damaged by fire, grazing and poor logging practices. There were, however, virgin stands of high quality trees especially in the coves and on North and east facing slopes of his holdings.

Vanderbilt employed the foremost architect of the day, Richard Morris Hunt, to design his 255-room mansion but also hired an equally famous landscape architect, Fred-rick Law Olmsted, to design the grounds of the estate. Olmsted, known for designing New York’s Central Park, the U.S. Capitol grounds and other notable venues, suggested to Vanderbilt that a forester be hired to manage his newly-acquired holdings. There was one problem. Only two foresters were practicing in America at the time. One was a German forester, Bernard Fernow, who happened to be already working with the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. The other was a 27-year-old Pennsylvanian, Gifford Pinchot.

Pinchot, who came from a wealthy family himself, had graduated from Yale and had studied forestry, on the advice of his father, in France for 13 months. Anxious to get started in his chosen profession, he accepted Vande-rbilt’s offer of employment and came to the Biltmore Estate in early February, 1892. His plans for forest management included selection cutting for sustained yield. Stands not adequately stocked with trees were planted with hardwoods and pine.

Later, in writing of his experience, he stated, “… Thus, Biltmore became the beginning of practical forestry in America. It was the first piece of woodland to be put under a regular system of forest management whose object was to pay the owner while improving the forest.”

…Vanderbilt’s widow, Edith, sold the 87,500-acre Pink Beds tract to the U.S. Forest Service in 1914; it ultimately became part of the Pisgah National Forest. While all of those lands played a role in the origin of forestry, The Cradle of Forestry in America has special significance. Congress carved out and designated 6,500 acres as a national historic site in 1968. Here four firsts can be identified: the first trained American forester; the first managed forest; the first school of forestry in America and the first national forest created under the Weeks Act of 1911.

Source: Vanderbilt Created The Cradle Of Forestry – The Transylvania Times, 2017-03-20

Use of high carbon North American woody biomass in UK electricity generation

In July 2014, DECC published the Bioenergy Emissions and Counterfactual (BEAC) model, which investigates the impact on carbon emissions of various ways of sourcing woody biomass from North America to produce electricity in the UK. The calculator estimates the greenhouse gas intensity by taking into account the counterfactual land use for the scenario (i.e. what the land or wood would have been used for if it was not used for bioenergy). BEAC shows that some scenarios could save considerable carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels, whilst if others occurred they could cause emissions greater than fossil fuels. BEAC did not assess the likelihood of particular scenarios so, in spring 2015, DECC commissioned an independent study (led by Ricardo-AEA and including North American forestry experts) to assess the likelihood that the most carbon intensive BEAC scenarios are happening now or if they might happen in the future, and what might drive or constrain them.

The study found that the majority of the high carbon scenarios identified in the BEAC report are unlikely to occur, but there are four that may be already happening or may happen in the future, although their scale is likely to be limited or uncertain.

The research identified economic decision making as driving forestry practices: the main value of a tree is in sawtimber, not biomass for wood pellet production. It is therefore unlikely that demand for biomass would cause foresters to change behaviour to harvest sooner than they intended, or to switch to supplying wood for bioenergy, but they may increase the intensity with which they manage forests.

Source: Use of high carbon North American woody biomass in UK electricity generation – GOV.UK, 2017-03-08

Wood Degradation by Thermotolerant and Thermophilic Fungi for Sustainable Heat Production

ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng., 2016, 4 (12), pp 6355–6361
The use of renewable biomass for production of heat and electricity plays an important role in the circular economy. Degradation of wood biomass to produce heat is a clean and novel process proposed as an alternative to wood burning, and could be used for various heating applications. So far, wood degradation has mostly been studied at ambient temperatures. However, the process needs to occur at elevated temperatures (40–55 °C) to produce useable heat. Our objective was to study wood degradation at elevated temperatures for its potential application on heat production. Two (a thermotolerant and a thermophilic) fungi with different degradation strategies were chosen: lignin-degrading Phanerochaete chrysosporium and cellulose-degrading Chaetomium thermophilum. Each fungus was inoculated on nonsterile and sterile birch woodblocks to, respectively, study their wood degradation activity with and without natural biota (i.e., microorganisms naturally present in wood). The highest wood decay rates were found with C. thermophilum in the presence of natural biota, followed by P. chrysosporium under sterile conditions. The estimated theoretical value of heat production with C. thermophilum under nonsterile conditions was 0.6 W kg–1 wood. In conclusion, C. thermophilum seems to be a promising fungus to degrade wood together with natural biota, as sterilization of wood is not feasible in practice. Further testing on a larger scale is needed to implement the obtained results and validate the potential of biological wood degradation for heat production.

Source: Wood Degradation by Thermotolerant and Thermophilic Fungi for Sustainable Heat Production – ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (ACS Publications)

New interactive website presents data on federal aid to local governments in the American West

To this day the U.S. government owns almost half of the land in the American West.

That level of control has been debated ever since the government began acquiring the areas in the 19th century, with some Westerners resenting the vastness of the federal authority, which amounts to 47 percent of land in 11 states. Some states, like Nevada, where the government owns 84.5 percent of the land, see more control than others.

But few know about the existence and history of revenue-sharing programs, with some dating to 1906, through which the federal government has been compensating states and counties for lost tax revenue on the lands it controls.

Now, thanks to historian Joseph “Jay” Taylor’s research and a team at Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), the history and geography of those programs are presented in Follow the Money: A Spatial History of In-Lieu Programs for Western Federal Lands, an interactive website that maps federal payments made to counties and states in the American West over the past 100 years.

Source: New interactive Stanford website presents unexamined data on federal programs that aid local governments in the American West | Stanford News

FAO and Partners Launch Sourcebook on National Socioeconomic Forestry Surveys

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) Forestry Department and its partners published ‘National Socioeconomic Surveys in Forestry: Guidance and Survey Modules for Measuring the Multiple Roles of Forests in Household Welfare and Livelihoods’. The Sourcebook aims to fill the data gap on the contributions that forests and wild products make to livelihoods and well-being. The modules and guidance presented aim to build the capacity of national statistical offices to integrate forest values into national household surveys, in particular surveys based on the World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS).

Source: FAO and Partners Launch Sourcebook on National Socioeconomic Forestry Surveys | SDG Knowledge Hub | IISD

New and Improved Tools Help Adapt Forests to Changing Conditions

Changes in climate and extreme weather are already increasing challenges for forest ecosystems across the world. Many impacts are expected to remain into the future. This means forest managers, conservationists and woodland owners continually need to address climate change to ensure forests can provide a broad array of benefits and services. The USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub and the U.S. Forest Service provide tools to help address this need.

Collaboration between scientists and managers resulted in the publication Forest Adaptation Resources: Climate Change Tools and Approaches for Land Managers. This publication provides a suite of materials enabling land managers to consider the likely effects of climate change and increase the ability of forests to cope with climate change impacts.

Source: USDA Blog » New and Improved Tools Help Adapt Forests to Changing Conditions

Laurel Wilt

Laurel wilt is caused by Raffaelea lauricola, a fungal pathogen transmitted by the ambrosia beetle Xyleborus glabratus. This beetle and fungus are native to southern Asia, and the beetle was first detected in Georgia in 2002. This disease impacts several trees in the family Lauraceae, including redbay, sassafras, pondspice, bay laurel, and avocado. Extensive mortality to redbay has occurred in coastal areas from North Carolina to Mississippi, with detections also occurring inland in Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Infected trees generally die within months, often showing a full crown of dead, brown leaves. There is no cure once a tree has this disease. Preventing the spread of this disease by transporting firewood is of the utmost importance, as management options are limited. Current management involves sanitation (chipping, burning) of infested material, and chemical treatments may be effective for high value trees.

Source: Laurel Wilt – Southern Regional Extension Forestry

Biology, diagnosis, and management of Heterobasidion root disease of southern pines

This fungus may be called many names – including annosum root rot, annosus root rot, or Heterobasidion root rot – and is caused by Heterobasidion irregulare (formerly named Heterobasidion annosum and Fomes annosus). This fungus is present throughout North America, has a very wide host range, and is commonly found in southeastern U.S. forests. The fungus causes root decay, although infected trees may survive for many years after infection. Weakened roots are at an increased risk of windthrow. Infected roots generally show heavy resin leakage, and the spread of the fungus through root grafts may cause pockets of tree mortality. Fungal spores are also spread by wind, and often infect stumps from recently harvested forest stands. Annosum root rot is most common on deep, sandy soils or former agricultural land. Prevention is the best way to manage this disease, but post-treatment of stumps with borax can limit fungal spread.

Source: Biology, diagnosis, and management of Heterobasidion root disease of southern pines – Southern Regional Extension Forestry

Getting Ahead of the Wildfire Problem: Quantifying and Mapping Management Challenges and Opportunities

Wildfire is a global phenomenon that plays a vital role in regulating and maintaining many natural and human-influenced ecosystems but that also poses considerable risks to human populations and infrastructure. Fire managers are charged with balancing the short-term protection of human assets sensitive to fire exposure against the potential long-term benefits that wildfires can provide to natural systems and wildlife populations. The compressed decision timeframes imposed on fire managers during an incident are often insufficient to fully assess a range of fire management options and their respective implications for public and fire responder safety, attainment of land and resource objectives, and future trajectories of hazard and risk. This paper reviews the role of GIS-based assessment and planning to support operational wildfire management decisions, with a focus on recent and emerging research that pre-identifies anthropogenic and biophysical landscape features that can be leveraged to increase the safety and effectiveness of wildfire management operations. We use a case study from the United States to illustrate the development and application of tools that draw from research generated by the global fire management community.

Source: Geosciences | Free Full-Text | Getting Ahead of the Wildfire Problem: Quantifying and Mapping Management Challenges and Opportunities | HTML

Patterns and Predictors of Recent Forest Conversion in New England

New England forests provide numerous benefits to the region’s residents, but are undergoing rapid development. We used boosted regression tree analysis (BRT) to assess geographic predictors of forest loss to development between 2001 and 2011. BRT combines classification and regression trees with machine learning to generate non-parametric statistical models that can capture non-linear relationships. Based on National Land Cover Database (NLCD) maps of land cover change, we assessed the importance of the biophysical and social variables selected for full region coverage and minimal collinearity in predicting forest loss to development, specifically: elevation, slope, distance to roads, density of highways, distance to built land, distance to cities, population density, change in population density, relative change in population density, population per housing unit, median income, state, land ownership categories and county classification as recreation or retirement counties. The resulting models explained 6.9% of the variation for 2001–2011, 4.5% for 2001–2006 and 1.8% for 2006–2011, fairly high values given the complexity of factors predicting land development and the high resolution of the spatial datasets (30-m pixels). The two most important variables in the BRT were “population density” and “distance to road”, which together made up 55.5% of the variation for 2001–2011, 49.4% for 2001–2006 and 42.9% for 2006–2011. The lower predictive power for 2006–2011 may reflect reduced development due to the “Great Recession”. From our models, we generated high-resolution probability surfaces, which can provide a key input for simulation models of forest and land cover change.

Source: Land | Free Full-Text | Patterns and Predictors of Recent Forest Conversion in New England