Friend or foe? Be on the lookout for invasive insects

Insects, both beneficial and disruptive, have always been front-of-mind for the people growing our food. Of particular interest in today’s world are invasives: insects that are not native to a region and whose introduction (whether intentional or accidental) is likely to cause harm to our environment, our economy or human health. Or already has.

A 2016 report in Nature Communication estimates that the annual economic impact of invasive insects on goods and services in North America is at least $27.3 billion. And this, say the authors, is likely an underestimation because determining the economic impact of invasives can be particularly difficult. “Most cost estimates are disparate, regionally focused, cover variable periods and are not always grounded in verifiable data,” write the authors. Additionally, the spread and the impact of invasive insects is likely to increase in coming years due to climate change, rising human population densities and intensifying international trade. But, say the authors, there is a way to minimize the impact: increased surveillance, containment and public awareness. In other words: To protect our local farmers, food systems and economies, we – the general public – need to pay attention to the bugs around us.

Source: Friend or foe? Be on the lookout for invasive insects – The Chronicle-Express, 2017-05-14

The painful riddle of forest thinning plan

By Peter Aleshire
Fire season looms.

Every high country community quivers on the cusp.

So the U.S. Forest Service will on Thursday hold a meeting on its plan to use thinning projects and controlled burns across a million acres of Rim Country to dramatically reduce both tree densities and wildfire risk.

One little problem: The Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) the plan envisions has fallen years behind schedule and is struggling to make a dent on the hundreds of thousands of acres of projects already approved.

The Forest Service awarded the first 4FRI contract five years ago for an initial 300,000 acres out of a total of 2.6 million eventually targeted. The Forest Service shifted the contract from Pioneer Forest Products to Good Earth AZ after a year, with no projects completed. So far, Good Earth has completed thinning projects on about 8,500 acres out of the 60,000 called for in the original schedule. Good Earth has said it plans to thin 30,000 acres annually, but so far has had trouble lining up enough trucks and capacity at small-wood sawmills to come anywhere near that pace.

Source: The painful riddle of forest thinning plan – Heber/Overgaard | wmicentral.com, 2017-04-14

Beetles making difference in woolly adelgid fight

By David Singleton
A beetle is winning the battle against the hemlock woolly adelgid at Nay Aug Gorge.

Almost 20 years after the woolly adelgid arrived at Nay Aug Park and started threatening the hemlocks in and around the gorge, officials believe they’ve finally gained the upper hand against the invasive, tree-killing pest, thanks in large part to a predatory beetle called S. tsugae.

“I think we caught it in time, and we have turned the corner. There is no doubt about it,” city forester Tony Santoli said. “I have seen great improvement.”

Since it started working with Santoli in 2011, Tree-Savers, a private company with offices in Waymart that specializes in saving endangered hemlocks, has released about 10,000 S. tsugae beetles at Nay Aug as part of an effort to eradicate the woolly adelgid and restore the park’s weakened hemlocks to health.

Like the woolly adelgid, the beetle — its full scientific name is Sasajiscymnus tsugae — is native to Japan. It is the woolly adelgid’s natural enemy, feeding on the tiny insect’s eggs.

A beetle is winning the battle against the hemlock woolly adelgid at Nay Aug Gorge.

Source: Beetles making difference in woolly adelgid fight at Nay Aug Park – The Times-Tribune, 2017-04-15

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