Florida is ditching palm trees to fight the climate crisis

By Allison Chinchar
When you think of Florida, beaches and palm trees come to mind. But what if those palm trees were slowly replaced with other trees? That could happen over time because of climate change, and communities in South Florida are trying to save the world from the climate crisis, one tree at a time.

“Palm trees do not sequester carbon at the same rate as our native canopy trees and do not provide shade, cool down streets and sidewalks to help counter the urban heat island effect that canopy trees do,” said Penni Redford, the Resilience and Climate Change Manager for West Palm Beach.

With atmospheric carbon dioxide levels today higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Earth needs to remove it or humans have to stop adding it. In fact, the last time carbon dioxide concentration was this high was more than 3 million years ago.

Scientists are working on solutions to capture and safely contain atmospheric carbon. One approach is called “terrestrial sequestration” — which is essentially planting trees. A tree absorbs carbon during photosynthesis and stores it for the life of the tree.

But Florida’s beloved palms are the least effective at carbon sequestration. The average palm in southern Florida only absorbs 5 pounds of CO2 per year. Compared to other trees — oaks, mahogany, pines, and cedars — that can sequester more than 3,000 pounds of CO2 over their lifetime, it may be best to exclude palms in favor of more broadleaf trees or conifers.

Miami is also joining the initiative to shift planting priority to a variety of trees — just not palms. Miami Beach’s Rising Above program to combat the climate crisis includes an urban forestry master plan which details the environmental benefits of planting shade trees, including species such as oak, ash, elm and sycamore, in place of palms.

Source: Florida is ditching palm trees to fight the climate crisis – CNN, 2021-10-24

Old Growth Forests In Slovakia Will Be Protected In Newly Established Nature Reserve

From WWF Central And Eastern Europe
Old Growth Forests of Slovakia is the official name of a new nature reserve approved by the Government of the Slovak Republic. Establishment of the new reserve is a result of long lasting effort of two conservation organizations OZ Prales and WWF Slovakia. Yet unprotected or insufficiently protected old growth and natural forests in 76 localities througout Slovakia with a total area of almost 6.5 thousand hectares are going to be declared a nature reserve on December 1st, 2021.

About a year ago (September 17th, 2020), WWF Slovakia and NGO PRALES submitted a petition with more than 30,000 signatures supporting the declaration of The Old Growth Forest Reserve to the Slovak Minister of the Environment Ján Budaj. The petition was the last step in the long-lasting efforts of the organizations to protect remaining old growth forests in Slovakia. However, the effort of NGOs had begun years ago by old growth forests mapping and continued through numerous negotiations and the preparation of the conservation proposal itself.

„Under the Carpathian Convention, Slovakia made a commitment to identify its natural forests and old growth forests. We seized this task in the belief that it is a topic, which can unite foresters and conservationists. Unfortunately, this was not the case. However, the results of mapping were gradually recognized by the relevant state institutions, although we lost several hundreds of hectares of old growth forests on this route. Therefore, in addition to all those involved in mapping and ensuring the protection of forests, I would like to thank all foresters who perceived the protection of old growth forests as our commitment to future generations,” says Marián Jasík, conservation expert from OZ Prales.

“When in 2017 WWF Slovakia entered into negotiations about the protection of old growth forests in Slovakia, the topic was impassable for many foresters or officials. However, as we did not retreat in our efforts, the first success came in 2019, when a new amendment to the Forest Act allowed forest owners and managers to protect old growth forests in their possession on a voluntary basis. The global loss of biodiversity we are witnessing nowadays is historically the largest and fastest ever, therefore I believe that no one doubts that the old growth forests in Slovakia deserve proper protection,“ says Miroslava Plassmann, director of WWF Slovakia.

Old growth forests mapping lasted from 2009 to 2015 and had proven that 10,180 hectares remained in Slovakia out of which one third is unprotected or insufficiently protected. Therefore, NGO PRALES and WWF Slovakia prepared a proposal for establishment of a nature reserve in 2018 and after several negotiations with the Forests of Slovak Republic state enterprise (LESY SR) gained a public commitment that foresters will not intervene in the localities identified as parts of the proposed nature reserve until the final decision about the proposal is made. In 2020 the 30,759 people signed petition organized by WWF Slovakia and Prales supporting the declaration of the new nature reserve Old Growth Forests of Slovakia.

The Government of the Slovak Republic approved establishment of the nature reserve on November 3rd, 2021. The Old Growth Forest of Slovakia nature reserve will become a reality on December 1st, 2021. It will include 76 state owned forest localities in various parts of Slovakia with a total area of 6,462.42 hectares.
With this decision, Slovakia contributes to the goals in the Carpathian Convention and in The EU’s biodiversity strategy for 2030, according to which “all of the EU’s remaining primary and old-growth forests should be strictly protected.”

Source: Old Growth Forests In Slovakia Will Be Protected In Newly Established Nature Reserve – Scoop News, 2021-11-06

Deal sets course for overhaul of private forest management in Oregon

By Bradley W. Parks
Timber and environmental groups have reached an agreement that sets Oregon on a course to overhaul management of 10 million acres of private forestlands in the state.

The deal, announced Saturday by Gov. Kate Brown’s office, concludes more than a year of negotiations between often at-odds sides to develop a plan to boost protections for vulnerable fish and wildlife while shielding the timber industry’s ability to log.

Friday was the deadline for both sides to either reach consensus, abandon the process or move the deadline. Negotiators worked through the day Friday and wrapped up business shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday. Brown and her staff helped push the negotiations to completion.

“Today’s historic agreement is a perfect example of the Oregon Way –– coming together at the table to find common ground, to the mutual benefit of us all,” Brown said in a press release. “Together, this agreement will help to ensure that Oregon continues to have healthy forests, fish, and wildlife, as well as economic growth for our forest industry and rural communities, for generations to come. I would like to thank everyone involved for their role in making this agreement a reality today.”

Jim James with the Oregon Small Woodlands Association similarly praised the compromise. “We were able to put down the contentious situations that we’ve had in the past and we had a continuous agreement to move forward,” James said. “I think that’s an extreme positive for the state of Oregon.”

In 2020, the sides each planned a series of competing ballot measures that could have turned into a costly political fight. Environmental groups sought, among other priorities, strict limits on spraying of aerial pesticides and improved protection for forest waters. Meanwhile, the timber industry sought compensation for private landowners when state regulations limited their ability to log.

Brown instead pushed for the two sides to negotiate, and their agreement to do so was hailed as historic even then, though it was just a beginning.

Representatives from the timber industry and environmental groups were charged with setting terms to pursue a statewide habitat conservation plan to safeguard fish, wildlife and water quality. A habitat conservation plan, or HCP, is a tool that allows practices like logging or irrigation to continue while minimizing damage to wildlife habitat.

Saturday’s deal sets in motion what could be a lengthy, possibly yearslong process to craft, approve and adopt an HCP into law and begin implementation.

Source: Deal sets course for overhaul of private forest management in Oregon – Oregon Public Broadcasting, 2021-10-30

New WSU podcast shares insights for healthy and safe forests

By Seth Truscott
Washington State University Extension Foresters launched a new podcast this fall to help Pacific Northwest landowners, and anyone who loves the woods, better understand and protect forests.

Co-hosts Sean Alexander and Patrick Shults, foresters for northeast and southwest Washington, respectively, created the Forest Overstory podcast as a new avenue for woodland education.

“WSU Extension Forestry is focused on continuing education for the public, and that includes adapting to new ways of sharing information,” Alexander said. “Podcasts let you have an informal conversation, really get down to the bottom of a subject in a way that you can’t in traditional presentations.”

Forest Overstory will examine issues and discoveries about wildfire, forest health, genetics and ecosystems, wildlife habitat, sustainable harvests, agroforestry, and other relevant topics.

The name is a play on words, referring to the overstory of forests—foliage, canopy, and crowns—as well as the broad stories hosts plan to explore.

“We want to interview professionals and talk about what they do, introduce lesser known fields, and bring in active landowners to share success stories and insights that people can apply to their land,” Alexander said.

“The field of forestry is changing all the time,” said Shults. “We’re always learning new things, and the podcast is a great opportunity to bring professionals and landowners who are doing something different into the limelight.”

“All of the information will help forest owners, but anybody who loves trees is going to be interested,” he added.

Hosts will release a new episode every month, and welcome show ideas and feedback. Their first episode, posted Oct. 1, 2021, discussed fire and the landscape with U.S. Forest Service scientist Paul Hessburg. The series is funded by the Foresters Fund of the Society of American Foresters, which promotes education for sustainable forest management.

Listen to the Forest Overstory on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher, or visit the podcast web site on WSU Extension Forestry.

Source: New WSU podcast shares insights for healthy and safe forests – WSU Insider, 2021-10-25

To save forests, researchers are hooking trees up to Twitter

Huge amounts of revealing data can be collected from sensors attached to trees.
Gennaro_Leonardi/Pixabay

Tim Rademacher, Harvard Kennedy School; Grace Field, University of Cambridge, and Kathy Steppe, Ghent University

In July 2018, a century-old red oak went live on Twitter. The account @awitnesstree, tweeting from the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts, introduces itself in its bio:

Witnessing life as a tree in a changing environment for more than a century. Views are my own – sort of (data translated by scientists and communicators at HF).

Every few days, the tree updates its 9,118 followers. On February 24 2020 it posted: “The last 2 days were extremely hot for February. When is this heatwave going to end?”

The day before, it had complained even more:

Now, after a hiatus due to COVID-related challenges, the Witness Tree is coming back online.

The tree’s messages are based on data from a suite of sensors on and around its trunk, using a real-time approach to tree monitoring pioneered by Witness Tree’s inspiration and sister project TreeWatch.net. Led by Ghent University, TreeWatch.net set up its first tweeting tree in 2016, and currently monitors sensor data from 21 trees across Belgium, Germany, India, the Netherlands and the UK.

The sensors fitted to Harvard’s Witness Tree include a ribbon embedded in its trunk to track water flow, a spring-loaded pin pushing against its bark to monitor shrinkage and swelling and a camera to capture leaf growth. Continuous data streams from these sensors tell us how the tree is affected by changes in its immediate environment. This technology is still in its infancy, but it shows exceptional promise.

Real-time sensors monitor the Witness Tree’s wellbeing.

By analysing data from Witness Tree and TreeWatch.net, we have already learned that drought can cause a tree’s stomata – the openings on the underside of its leaves – to close. The closed stomata block water intake, disrupting tree growth. More frequent droughts may therefore lead to less carbon uptake by trees and forests.

Harvard Forest’s Witness Tree.

Forthcoming studies even indicate that individual trees respond differently to the same heat waves, and that water transport in trees can react instantly to the presence of a solar eclipse. With the sun obscured by the moon, stomata close as they would do at night, immediately reducing water intake.

As we continue to assess incoming data from Witness Tree and TreeWatch.net, we will surely learn even more about how trees affect – and are affected by – their surroundings.

Science communication

The red oak at Harvard Forest, along with its Asian and European cousins at TreeWatch.net, is first and foremost a rich source of scientific data. But at the same time that data, when converted to tweets by custom-built algorithms, turns the Witness Tree into a platform for science communication research.

Behind the scenes, a computer program analyses the incoming numbers from Witness Tree’s sensors: cross-checking against pre-programmed thresholds for normal activity, looking for abrupt changes and compiling summaries.

For each key data feature, including daily water use, sap flow dynamics, stem shrinkage and trunk growth, the researchers at Harvard Forest have provided the program with several different prewritten message templates. The program chooses one of these templates, inserts the relevant data, and posts the completed message on Twitter as if in the tree’s own voice.

Because the messages are chosen from templates at random, they can be used as a testing ground to study how the public prefers to engage with different topics and writing styles.

Preliminary results suggest, somewhat surprisingly, that the Witness Tree’s followers engage equally with data-driven and narrative-based tweets. The addition of multimedia – through images, videos or data visualisation – generates more responses, likes and retweets. Any posts that directly concern climate change seem to attract the most attention.

The future

To gain access to even more data, both the Witness Tree project and TreeWatch.net are expanding. The single Witness Tree will soon become part of a forest network spread over urban, suburban and rural areas to study how trees function in different environments.

Future witness trees with fine particulate matter sensors sensitive to poor air quality could help grow awareness about environmental stress factors faced by humans and trees alike.

New trees monitored by TreeWatch.net will measure carbon lost due to tree respiration, paving the way for more accurate carbon accounting. By cementing our understanding of how trees contribute to the carbon cycle, we will be in a better position to reduce carbon output globally.

Long-term, Witness Tree and TreeWatch.net aim to work together to build a vast, international network of tweeting trees: in other words, an internet of trees. The data from this “internet” will provide invaluable insights into the wellbeing of our forest ecosystems – from detecting early signs of drought and tracking the impact of pests and pathogens to forecasting sap flow for maple syrup production.

The trees currently monitored by TreeWatch.net, spread across Europe and Asia.

As we have learned more about how trees interact with the ecosystems that they visually define, trees have often been represented as social creatures in recent research and popular writing. In a way, Witness Tree and TreeWatch.net play into this idea by giving their trees a human-like voice. They use personification as a tool to communicate effectively with a wide audience.

But it would be counterproductive to take this metaphor too seriously, because each tree’s voice is in fact a fiction fed by automated messages. Really, it’s the data talking – and the story that data tells is the brutally honest reality of environmental change.The Conversation

Tim Rademacher, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School; Grace Field, PhD Candidate in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, and Kathy Steppe, Professor of Applied Plant Ecophysiology, Ghent University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Source: To save forests, researchers are hooking trees up to Twitter

The BLM partners with American Forests to develop Camp Fire Reforestation Plan

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In advancing the Department of the Interior’s commitment to bolster adaption and increase resilience to climate change, the Bureau of Land Management today released its Camp Fire Reforestation Plan. The plan, developed by the BLM and American Forests, outlines management goals, assesses potential climate impacts to the Camp Fire burn scar, and uses adaptation strategies and approaches to promote forest recovery.

The Camp Fire Reforestation Plan will improve forest health and resilience, enabling ecosystems to better withstand environmental stressors and recover from disturbances; reduce hazardous fuels and increase community safety; improve wildlife habitat and riparian/wetland functionality; improve plant community diversity and forest structural diversity; identify feasible, cost-effective strategies and plans that can be maintained long term; and protect soils by reducing sedimentation, preventing erosion and promoting a vegetation community that will stabilize soils.

“When it comes to reforestation, we have to use all the climate-smart tools in the toolbox,” said American Forests California State Director Britta Dyer. “To do so, land managers need to be willing to work across jurisdictions and look at a fire scar for what it truly is, a shared responsibility. The BLM had the foresight to be inclusive in that this plan not only restores BLM lands, but it has downstream benefits to all impacted by the devastating Camp Fire.”

“This plan will assist foresters who are implementing recovery actions to the burn scar, such as tree planting and managing vegetation,” said BLM California State Forester Coreen Francis. “The BLM and American Forests engaged stakeholders from private industry, the community, research scientists, and other agencies in developing the plan and formulating the suite of actions needed for long-term forest recovery.”

The 2018 Camp Fire burned more than 153,000 acres, killed 85 people and destroyed more than 18,000 structures in Butte County, California. Approximately 4,070 acres of BLM managed lands burned during the fire, and 36 percent of this area (1,400 acres) burned at high severity.

The BLM is at the forefront of developing adaptation strategies to climate change, and this climate planning process will help guide forest management into the future. American Forests is a national conservation organization established in 1875 to work with partners to build healthy and resilient forests in urban and rural landscapes.

The plan was written to be used by agencies, private landowners, or other entities that may be facing similar questions about how to adapt and increase resilience to climate change. A copy of the Camp Fire Reforestation Plan can be found at https://www.blm.gov/programs/natural-resources/forests-and-woodlands, or https://www.americanforests.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/BLM_CampPlan.pdf.

Source: The BLM partners with American Forests to develop Camp Fire Reforestation Plan – Bureau of Land Management, 2021-10-12

Swaths of Atlantic white cedar forest totaling 10,000 acres to be restored

By Michele S. Byers

Step into a mature stand of Atlantic white cedar trees on a hot day and you will instantly feel cooler. These towering native evergreens grow so dense that they shade out sunlight and create forest floor habitat for ferns, sphagnum moss, liverworts, insect-eating plants, rare orchids and swamp pinks.

In turn, this incredible forest supports rare animals like Pine Barrens tree frogs, barred owls and timber rattlesnakes.

Before European settlement, there were about 500,000 acres of Atlantic white cedar forest up and down the East Coast. New Jersey alone had about 115,000 acres of cedar in the Pine Barrens and in the Meadowlands.

But Atlantic white cedars have suffered a double whammy.

In colonial New Jersey, cedar forests were relentlessly chopped down for their strong, lightweight, rot-resistant timber, prized as a building material. The heartwood was so durable that even logs submerged in swamps for centuries could be turned into excellent lumber.

Cedar wood was used for shipbuilding and shingles for roofs and siding. Unfortunately, in the wake of logging, cedar forests often regenerated into maple, gum and pine swamps due to overabundant deer or altered water tables from nearby agriculture, beaver dams, or road crossings with improper culvert pipes.

Today, Atlantic white cedar forests face the modern threat of climate change. Storm surges and rising sea levels caused by the warming climate are inundating many coastal Atlantic white cedar forests with saltwater, killing the trees.

The “ghost forests” left behind are the subject of a haunting art installation at Madison Square Park in New York City through Nov. 14, featuring a stand of dead cedars from an inundated swamp in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Today, less than 25,000 acres of Atlantic white cedar forest remain in New Jersey, but there is new hope for these magnificent trees.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced plans to restore 10,000 acres of Atlantic white cedar forest over the coming decade, mostly on state-owned lands in the Pine Barrens.

“This is the largest forest restoration project ever undertaken in New Jersey and the largest ever in the nation restoring Atlantic white cedars,” DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said.

“Through this project, we will re-establish once-dominant stands of Atlantic white cedar, but at higher elevations less vulnerable to rising seas and saltwater intrusion, and provide habitat for globally rare plants and wildlife, while capturing and storing carbon and absorbing floodwaters,” LaTourette said.

Source: Swaths of Atlantic white cedar forest totaling 10,000 acres to be restored – centraljersey.com, 2021-10-13

Project Learning Tree Canada launches new video series to introduce young Canadians to forest careers

Young Canadians can now discover careers in the forest and conservation sector thanks to Project Learning Tree Canada’s (PLT Canada) new Green Jobs video series. The first video in the seven-part series is being released today to celebrate National Forest Week.

The episode, hosted by Registered Professional Forester Lacey Rose, features Jennifer Tallman, Chief Forester for EACOM timber (an SFI-certified organization) and the first female chief forester in Ontario. Rose tags along as Tallman performs different parts of her job and explains why it is important to manage forests sustainably for the long-term health of our planet and communities.

The series, which was shot in Ontario and British Columbia, speaks primarily to young people who are interested in the outdoors and who have yet to embark on their career paths. Each episode spotlights a different forestry professional who explains why their job is important for the environment, how society benefits from the work they do, and the various education and career pathways that led them to their unique green jobs.

“In the next decade, one-third of the forest sector’s workforce is set to retire,” says Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of PLT Canada. “It is critical that the forest sector, educators, teachers, and government all work together to inspire and support the next generation of forest and conservation leaders. With this series, we’re hoping that young people across the country will be inspired to pursue these incredible job opportunities. Youth can also access our work experience and mentorship programs, which help them gain the skills they need to enter the workforce and advance their careers. By educating, inspiring, and offering professional development opportunities for youth, we are supporting communities coast-to-coast-to-coast and helping to grow a diverse and resilient green jobs workforce.”

The first episode in the series, featuring Jennifer Tallman, Chief Forester for EACOM, is available at pltcanada.org/green-jobs-video-series. PLT Canada will be releasing a new episode every month until March 2022. Future episodes will feature a Lead Scientist, a Roads and Operations Supervisor, an Indigenous Relationships Manager, and other important green jobs professionals.

View the first episode, take the Green Jobs Career Personality Quiz and much more at pltcanada.org.

A video accompanying this announcement is available at: https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/62fbe337-681c-499c-b9f6-3d0467e57b1d

Source: Project Learning Tree Canada launches new video series to introduce young Canadians to forest careers – GlobeNewswire, 2021-09-24

Forest reserves expand by 95,000ha in Belarus over 5 years

MINSK, 15 September (BelTA) – Over the past five years the forest reserves in Belarus increased by 95,000 hectares, First Deputy Forestry Minister Valentin Shatravko told reporters at a press conference on 15 September, BelTA has learned.

“The Belarusian model of public forest management is gaining wider recognition at the international level, and there are grounds for this. Due to the efforts of domestic foresters, the quality of the forest reserves has improved. The area of forest reserves has been constantly growing over the past 30 years to reach 9.6 million hectares, the total forested area is 8.3 million hectares. The latter has grown by 95,000 hectares literally within five years,” the first deputy minister said.

Valentin Shatravko also pointed to the increase in the proportion of land area covered by forests. “The total reserves of plantings are also on the rise. Today they make up 1.838 billion cubic meters. The stock of mature and over-mature trees is also growing; it already amounts to over 400 million cubic meters. The average yield of wood per hectare keeps growing, too. Not it stands at 223 cubic meters per hectare. The intensity of forest use is consistently increasing throughout the country, which, among other things, has to do with an increase in the area under mature forests. At the same time, forestry industry complies with all environmental regulations. The efficiency of forest management is increased without jeopardizing the environment and biological diversity,” the first deputy minister emphasized.

“Within three years, all areas that were under forests are being reforested. Earlier, we were concerned by the drying out of pine forests, which peaked in 2018 and was aggravated by the drying up of spruce forests. But these days, the amount of forest restoration and recovery activities shrank by more than 10 times over 2018. This suggests that the situation has stabilized and is under control. Yet, forests are constantly monitored in order to prevent similar situations in the future,” Valentin Shatravko added.

Source: Forest reserves expand by 95,000ha in Belarus over 5 years – Belta, 2021-09-15