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

Fires, thinning create healthier forest

by Peter Aleshire
Patchy.

That’s what you want.

Whether it comes to bark beetles, forest fires, migrating birds, elk or deer — what you want are forests with patches thick with trees, open areas and hillsides burned decades ago.

This conclusion has emerged from a series of recent studies on bark beetles and tree densities.

The studies support the underlying logic of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), an ambitious effort to use a reinvented, small-tree logging industry to thin the forest and diversify the landscape.

The project has lagged far behind the schedule needed to thin the first installment of 300,000 acres, mostly because the 4FRI contractor Good Earth has struggled to build up the infrastructure needed to thin 30,000 to 50,000 acres annually.

However, recent research validates the underlying blueprint for 4FRI, which would dramatically lower tree densities in the ponderosa pine forests, while creating a landscape with denser patches separated by a wide-open, thinned forest.

Source: Fires, thinning create healthier forest = Payson Roundup, 2016-04-04

Will climate change affect forest ecology?

By Rachel Sargent
For many of us, winter in the Northeast means cold temperatures and piles of snow, drifting through forests and across fields. It’s hard to imagine that winter here could be different, but the prospect of climate change has scientists asking just what our winters might look like in the future – and how those changes might influence forest ecology.

At the U.S. Forest Service’s Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, scientists are thinking about the year 2100. How much warming will occur isn’t certain, but some projections suggest that average air temperatures in our region may increase 5.5 to 9 degrees over the course of this century. The effects are likely to be complex and are difficult to predict, with benefits and costs for different organisms. Some tree species, for example, may benefit from longer and warmer growing seasons, but they may also sustain root damage from more frequent soil freezing.

It may seem counterintuitive that soils would freeze more often during warm winters. The reason is a projected lack of snow. The blanket of snow that usually accumulates during winter insulates the soil below, preventing it from experiencing the full, sub-freezing temperatures of the air. When warmer temperatures leave a thinner blanket of snow, or none at all, the soil is more likely to freeze when cold snaps strike.

Source: Will climate change affect forest ecology? – Burlington Free Press, 2017-03-12

Pine beetles could devastate Alabama’s $11B forest industry this year

By Dennis Pillion
A full-grown Southern pine beetle is still about half the length of a grain of rice, but state and federal forestry officials worry this tiny bug could have a monster impact this year on the state of Alabama’s $11 billion wood products industry.

“With Southern pine beetles, the Latin name (Dendroctonus frontalis) actually means tree killer, and it is,” said Edward Loewenstein, associate professor of silviculture at Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. “It is well-suited to take trees out.”

This year’s concerns are rooted in the large number of trees left stressed or already dying from last year’s record-setting drought. Drought-stressed trees don’t make sap as well as healthy ones, and that sticky sap is the tree’s primary defense against beetles.

Source: Pine beetles could devastate Alabama’s $11B forest industry this year – AL.com, 2017-03-12

Wet winter fails to solve California’s forest problems

By Christine Souza
Despite the wet winter and far-above-average Sierra Nevada snowpack, California forests remain at risk from tree mortality, bark beetle infestations and overgrown landscapes, according to presentations at the 2017 California Farm Bureau Federation Leaders Conference.

During the event, foresters and forest landowners discussed all those issues and communicated concerns directly to Randy Moore, U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest regional forester, who participated as a guest speaker.

Shaun Crook, a timber operator and president of the Tuolumne County Farm Bureau, emphasized to Moore the need for effective forest management and that it be included in the agency’s updated forest plans, to reverse the damage happening in the national forests. The Forest Service is currently working on forest plans to serve as the land management framework for the Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra national forests, which are expected to serve as blueprints for other forests in the Sierra and across the country.

“As we go forward with the forest plan revisions and the (tree) mortality, we need to be more proactive with the green and timber sale program to start getting the forest back into that state that it was 100 years ago, before we can just let fire do its thing, or we’re going to continue to have the catastrophic fires like the King Fire and the Rim Fire,” said Crook, a contract logger and grazing permittee in the Stanislaus National Forest. “We need a guaranteed harvest level coming off of the national forest because without that, we won’t get this private infrastructure back.”

Source: Wet winter fails to solve state’s forest problems – California Farm Bureau Federation, 2017-03-15

Colorado Renews Plan To Protect Water And Prevent Wildfires

By Desmond O’Boyle
The Forests to Faucets partnership originally began in 2010 as a response to a series of wildfires, namely the 1996 Buffalo Creek and 2002 Hayman wildfires. Since its inception, the partnership’s goals have grown to not only reduce catastrophic wildfires, but to also restore forests impacted by reservoirs, erosion and beetle devastation. On Monday, Feb 27, Forests to Faucets was granted a $33 million extension to continue its ongoing projects.

Lawrence Lujan is the regional press officer for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service, one of the organizations involved in the partnership. He says the specific strategies will be identified in a 5-year plan.

“Some of the tools in the toolbox include, thinning, prescribed fire, replanting trees, especially in areas that have been impacted by previous fires,” said Lujan. “We’ll be decommissioning roads, taking actions to minimize erosion and sedimentation of reservoirs.”

Locations for forest restoration and wildfire fuels reduction projects include Dillon, Strontia Springs, Gross, Antero, Eleven Mile Canyon, Cheesman and Williams Fork reservoirs. The partnership anticipates treating more than 40,000 acres of land.

Source: Colorado Renews Plan To Protect Water And Prevent Wildfires | KUNC, 2017-03-03

B.C. government commits $150 million to forest rehab

By Nelson Bennett
The B.C. government announced $150 million in spending Friday February 17 to “treat” forests to reduce wildfire hazards, rehabilitate forests damaged by fire and disease and increase B.C.’s carbon sink.

While that treatment will include tree planting, it will also include tree cutting.

The money will go to the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., which was created last year with $85 million.

To date, $5.6 million has been awarded to various projects, most of them aimed at addressing forest fire hazards and cleaning up the still-standing dead wood left from the Mountain pine beetle infestation.

The funding announced Friday is in addition to the $85 million in funding provided last year. The new funding is to be added in the 2016-2017 provincial budget, which comes down on February 21.

The funds will be managed by the Forest Enhancement Society. Some of the funding will go towards tree-planting, which Premier Christy Clark described as a significant climate change initiative, since young forests absorb considerably more carbon dioxide than mature forests.

Source: B.C. government commits $150 million to forest rehab | Forestry & Fisheries | Business in Vancouver, 2017-02-17

Invasive bugs found in fallen trees years after storm

By Holly Ramer, Associated Press
They may be down but they’re not out: Damaging insects can emerge from fallen trees and logs for several years after a major storm, according to a U.S. Forest Service study that reinforces long-standing warnings against moving firewood from place to place.

Timber that gets blown down, broken or damaged by wind is often cut and used as firewood, which in turn can enable the spread of invasive, destructive insects that drain the life out of forests from New England to the West Coast.

Such pests are projected to put 63 percent of the country’s forest at risk through 2027 and carry a cost of several billion dollars annually in dead tree removal, declining property values and timber industry losses, according to the peer-reviewed study last year in Ecological Applications.

Researchers were surprised to find that wood harvested even three years after the tornado produced a significant number of insects.

Source: Study: Invasive bugs found in fallen trees years after storm | The Spokesman-Review, 2017-02-12

Study documents tree species’ decline due to climate warming

by Dan Joling, Associated Press
A type of tree that thrives in soggy soil from Alaska to Northern California and is valued for its commercial and cultural uses could become a noticeable casualty of climate warming over the next 50 years, an independent study has concluded.

Yellow cedar, named for its distinctive yellow wood, already is under consideration for federal listing as a threatened or endangered species.

The study published in the journal Global Change Biology found death due to root freeze on 7 percent of the tree’s range, including areas where it’s most prolific. It cited snow-cover loss that led to colder soil.

Additional mortality is likely as the climate warms, researchers said.

Source: Study documents tree species’ decline due to climate warming | KOMO, 2017-01-06

To Understand Tree Health, Just Listen

By Erik Lief
In evaluating the health of living things – whether they be humans, plants or animals – when advanced age or decay sets in we can observe the physical changes as they happen with our own eyes.

The same, however, cannot be said when studying trees. That’s because when they’re stricken by old age or disease, they rot, invisibly, from the inside out. And not knowing their true health misleads foresters and scientists around the globe who track climatic shifts and other natural occurrences.

As a result, foresters, arborists and researchers obtain their tree health data employing an alternative method: sound waves. However, while that method – called sonic tomography – is fascinating and revealing, it has its limitations since previously it could only be deployed on trees with cylindrical trunks.

But a new study, just published in Applications in Plant Sciences, claims to have taken sonic tomography to the next level, where now irregular-shaped trunks, which are predominately found in tropical climates, can be analyzed as well. And according to the research team headed by Greg Gilbert, lead author of the study and Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, evaluating tree decay “is of special concern in the tropics because tropical forests are estimated to harbor 96% of the world’s tree diversity and about 25% of terrestrial carbon, compared to the roughly 10% of carbon held in temperate forests.”

Source: To Understand Tree Health, Just Listen | American Council on Science and Health, 2017-01-06