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

Trees getting a nudge to help them adapt to warming climate

By Nelson Bennett
As the northern hemisphere experiences earlier, hotter, drier summers and heavier precipitation in the winters, due to global warming, natural selection should eventually result in trees naturally adapting to changing climatic conditions.

Tree varieties that thrive in warmer, drier southern parts of the province, or on lower slopes, are likely to gradually shift further north and further up mountain slopes.

Scientists and foresters in B.C. are already beginning to give them a gentle nudge through assisted migration – one of the topics this morning at the University of British Columbia’s ongoing three-day Commonwealth Forestry Conference.

Using a variety of scientific tools and experiments, like genomics and provenance trials, scientists have already been able to identify which tree varieties have naturally evolved certain traits, like cold hardiness, disease resistance and drought tolerance, in different geographic regions.

Climate data can be matched with tree phenotype data to identify which trees will be best suited to climate conditions in the coming decades. Genomics is an additional tool that helps scientists identify key genetic characteristics.

These tools are used to develop seed lots that foresters can use to replant trees in a given area that are the same species, but different varieties that have traits that make them more suitable to a climate that is changing rapidly.

Interior varieties of Douglas fir, for example, are more cold hardy than coastal varieties. And Sitka spruce from California grow longer and bigger than ones that grow in Alaska. They are the same species of tree, but are different varieties that have naturally adapted to their particular environments.

Scientists and foresters are already using these tools to identify which varieties might fare better in certain areas, and use them in what is called “assisted migration” using a climate-based seed transfer program.

To date, the climate based seed transfer program in B.C. has been optional, but will become mandatory next year, said Sally Aitken, a forestry scientist at UBC’s department of forest and conservation science.

Source: Trees getting a nudge to help them adapt to warming climate – Prince George Citizen, 2021-12-18

Yukon forests healthy with few areas of concern

By John Tonin
Yukon forests remain healthy according to the 2020 Yukon Forest Health Report, however, there are areas that foresters will be monitoring, said Rob Legare.

The Yukon Forest Health Monitoring Strategy focuses on the 10 forest health agents of greatest concern. The Yukon is divided into five forest health zones.

Each year since 2009, researchers have completed aerial surveys of one of the five zones. But, because of COVID-19, Legare said the aerial study was unable to happen in 2020. Instead, the information provided was an “anecdotal judgement” of what has been known to be occurring.

In 2021 foresters will be back in the air doing aerial monitoring in Zone 3, or the Dawson region.

Aerial surveys will be done in Zone 3 because of spruce budworm. In 2019 and 2020, residents of Mayo reported light defoliation on the tops of spruce trees in the Stewart Crossing area on Ferry Hill.

“When you see it (spruce budworm) in one area, it is very likely that it is in another area,” said Legare.

High budworm populations can result in defoliation ranging from light damage to growing tips to complete tree defoliation, reads the report.

Legare said their forester counterparts in the Northwest Territories have also been reporting budworm on the Yukon side of the border.

“They see it in the Yukon, they are seeing it in the Peel,” said Legare. “We don’t normally fly the Peel Watershed but we are including the Peel so we can start mapping spruce budworm because Northwest Territories’ forest health personnel are seeing it there.”

In the Shallow Bay area, there is “quite a bit of windthrow” said Legare. Windthrow refers to trees uprooted by wind.

“When there is windthrow of conifers that becomes available hosts for bark beetles,” said Legare. “The beetle likes trees that are stressed.

“What the risk is the large amount of windthrow could attract the beetle and populations can build up. We are monitoring those areas right now and doing some removal of host materials.”

Legare said there will be more information on the windthrow situation in the 2021 Forest Health Report.

Perhaps the largest area of concern still remains the territory’s aspen populations.

“The real extent of disturbance in the North is the aspen decline,” said Legare. “People up there have been noticing that the aspen just haven’t looked that healthy.”

Legare said the aspen decline could be attributed to climate change because it’s something that’s occurred in the last 20 years. Climate change can lead to changes in pest distribution, severity and frequency which contributes to aspen decline.

There are two species affecting the aspen decline, the large aspen tortrix and the aspen serpentine leafminer.

Outbreaks of large aspen tortrix have occurred in several places throughout the Yukon including Teslin Lake, Braeburn, Haines Junction, Pelly and Champagne. The tortrix eats the aspen leaves.

The leafminer pest occurs throughout the Yukon range of trembling aspen and also defoliates balsam poplar. The leafminer causes the aspen leaves to turn a milky white.

Although there are some areas of concern, Legare said when the aerial surveys are conducted foresters usually just see rows upon rows of beautiful, healthy trees and rivers.

Source: Yukon forests healthy with few areas of concern: report – Yukon News. 2021-07-03

Glyphosate pesticides persist for years in wild plants and cause flower infertility

An herbicide widely used in agriculture, forestry and other applications can cause deleterious effects on the reproductive health of a common perennial plant found in forests in British Columbia, Canada. Researchers reported in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science that glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) deformed various reproductive parts on prickly rose (Rosa acicularis) a year after the chemicals were first applied in both field sites and experimental plots.

The study is one of the first to look at the effects of GBH on the reproductive morphology of a prevalent perennial plant in a commercial forestry operation. The herbicide is commonly used to control plants that could compete with conifers that are grown to be harvested in areas known as ‘cutblocks’. Glyphosate has been used since the 1970s but has come under increased scrutiny in recent years over concerns about carcinogenic effects on human health.

Investigators from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) collected and analyzed samples of prickly rose reproductive parts from three cutblocks, as well as from greenhouse-grown wild plants, and compared them against untreated plants from similar sources.

The results were striking: Pollen viability of plants treated with glyphosate dropped by an average of 66% compared to the controls a year after the initial application. More than 30% of anthers, the part of the stamen that contains the pollen, failed to split open (a process known as dehiscence), condemning these flowers to functional infertility. In addition, researchers found traces of GBH on plant flowers two full years after the herbicide was first sprayed.

Source: Glyphosate pesticides persist for years in wild plants and cause flower infertility – EurekAlert! Science News, 2021-06-16

Fire Destroyed 10 Percent of World’s Giant Sequoias Last Year—Can They Survive Climate Change?

By Alex Fox
Last year, California’s Castle fire may have killed off ten to 14 percent of the world’s giant sequoias, reports Joshua Yeager of the Visalia Times-Delta.

The tally of dead trees comes from a new draft report that used satellite imagery, forest modelling and surveys to revise initial estimates of how many titanic trees were lost when flames ripped through parts of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. That initial estimate was around 1,000 dead sequoias, but now scientists with the National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) suspect between 7,500 and 10,600 mature trees may have died, reports Kurtis Alexander for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Per the Chronicle, among the fallen is the planet’s ninth-largest giant sequoia, nicknamed the King Arthur tree. Sequoias can live for thousands of years and grow to more than 250 feet tall and measure 30 feet in diameter, per the Chronicle.

“The whole thing is surprising and devastating and depressing,” Christy Brigham, chief of resources management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and lead author of the report, tells Alex Wigglesworth for the Los Angeles Times.

Researchers were surprised by the death toll because of how adapted to living with fire giant sequoias are. Per the LA Times, sequoia bark can be two feet thick and their cones only release their seeds to spawn the next generation when they’re toasted by low intensity fire.

Brigham tells the LA Times that losing so many mature trees to a single fire signals the fact that climate change and a century of fire suppression have rewritten the rules that once governed the sequoia’s domain.

Source: Fire Destroyed 10 Percent of World’s Giant Sequoias Last Year—Can They Survive Climate Change? | Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine, 2021-06-11

Huyck Preserve imports silverflies to try to save hemlocks

By Melissa Hale-Spencer
RENSSELAERVILLE — Can a Pacific Northwest silverfly save eastern hemlocks in New York State? The Huyck Preserve in Rensselaerville is leading the way in finding out.

It’s called biological control, and it means putting a natural predator near its prey as a way of managing a pest — in the way that lady bugs killing aphids, or deer mice eat gypsy moths.

The Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve, an accredited land trust with over 2,000 acres and a biological research station, is working with the New York Hemlock Initiative at Cornell University to implement biological control of the hemlock woolly adelgid, a destructive pest of eastern hemlock trees from Asia that was introduced in Virginia in the early 1900s. Since that time, adelgid has killed millions of hemlocks from northern Georgia to Nova Scotia.

The Huyck Preserve is a partner in the Capital Region Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, a not-for-profit quasi-governmental agency hosted by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County and funded through the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation via the Environmental Protection Fund.

In 2018, the Huyck Preserve began work on its first invasive-species management and monitoring plan, according to a release from the preserve, and Capital Region PRISM (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management) became a significant resource for protecting the lands and waters of the preserve from the harmful effects of invasive species, including forest pests like hemlock woolly adelgid.

The Huyck Preserve undertook its first chemical treatment of woolly adelgid in 2020. But the pest has continued to spread across the nearly 350 acres of hemlocks at the Huyck Preserve. This spring, the New York State Hemlock Initiative released two species of silverflies, Leucopis argenticollis and Leucopis piniperda. These tiny flies are native to the Pacific Northwest of the United States and are specialist predators of the woolly adelgid.

In other words, they feed only on the adelgid and are at very low risk of causing ecological problems. The silverflies feed on adelgid eggs as larvae and are some of their most numerous predators on the western hemlocks of the Pacific Northwest.

This year’s release is part of a long-term study coordinated by the three organizations, and future monitoring will determine the success of establishment of silverfly and control of the adelgid. Only time will tell if the release of a small number of silverflies (compared to the vast infestation of the hemlock wooly adelgid at the preserve) is successful.

Source: Huyck Preserve imports silverflies to try to save hemlocks – The Altamont Enterprise, 2021-05-11

Forest the size of France regrown worldwide over 20 years, study finds

By Oliver Milman
An area of forest the size of France has regrown around the world over the past 20 years, showing that regeneration in some places is paying off, a new analysis has found.

Nearly 59m hectares of forests have regrown since 2000, the research found, providing the potential to soak up and store 5.9 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide – more than the annual emissions of the entire US.

The two-year study, conducted via satellite imaging data and on-ground surveys across dozens of countries, identified areas of regrowth in the Atlantic forest in Brazil, where an area the size of the Netherlands has rebounded since 2000 due to conservation efforts and altered industry practices.

Another regrowth area is found in the boreal forests of Mongolia, where 1.2m hectares of forest have regenerated in two decades due to the work of conservationists and the Mongolian government. Forests also made a comeback in parts of central Africa and Canada.

However, the world is still experiencing an overall loss of forests “at a terrifying rate”, the researchers warned, with deforestation occurring much faster than restoration schemes.

Over a similar period outlined in the regrowth study, which was led by WWF as part of the Trillion Trees project, 386m hectares of tree cover were lost worldwide, around seven times the area of regenerated forest.

Source: Forest the size of France regrown worldwide over 20 years, study finds – The Guardian, 2021-05-11

Auburn University Researcher Demonstrates NASA Satellite’s Ability To Observe Forest Health

By Teri Greene
The study, “Using ICESat-2 to Estimate and Map Forest Aboveground Biomass: A First Example” in the journal Remote Sensing, shows how NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, can be used to estimate aboveground biomass, or AGB, of forests and map its distribution.

Narine said limited information on the three-dimensional structure of forests has contributed to uncertainties in determining carbon budgets. However, ICESat-2 can capture this information using a laser-based lidar (light detection and ranging) instrument.

Lidar facilitates direct three-dimensional structural measurements, and using this technology from a space-based platform translates to exciting possibilities for assessing forest resources up to global scales, Narine said.

Knowing the capabilities of ICESat-2 allows for a better understanding of the satellite’s capabilities and limitations for characterizing vegetation.

“With ICESat-2 providing elevation measurements globally, a plethora of indicators of ecosystem health and function — including a key surrogate measure of forest AGB — can be potentially estimated to support sustainable management of forests,” Narine said.

The ICESat-2 mission was primarily designed to capture ice measurements, but its capture of data over vegetated areas offers investigators broader insights into ecosystem structure and the potential to contribute to the sustainable management of forest ecosystems.

Source: Auburn University Researcher Demonstrates NASA Satellite’s Ability To Observe Forest Health – SatNews, 2021-04-11

‘Ghost Forests’ May Become More Common as Sea Levels Rise

By Elizabeth Gamillo
Along the mid-Atlantic and southern New England coast, an eerie sight dots the changing landscape. Rising sea levels turn thriving green vistas of hardwood and evergreen trees into “ghost forests,” dried-up terrains filled with gnarled, dead, and dying timber. Under climate change, these could become an even more common sight, according to a new report published by Rutgers University.

Ghost forests are landscapes that form when saltwater begins to flood woodland areas that contain freshwater-dependent trees. The water high in salinity slowly poisons trees, and as they die, all that is left behind are ghostly gray trunks that resemble toothpicks. The trunks can last decades in this dried-up barren state, reports Dharna Noor for Gizmodo.

Researchers at Rutgers University, along with the United States Department of Agriculture, found that coastal woodland forests ranging from Virginia through Massachusetts are dying as a result of heavy rain, saltwater surges, and flooding from rising sea levels, reports Matthew Hart for Nerdist.

The rising salt water not only kills trees but leaves soil unhealthy and forests uninhabitable for new growth, Nerdist reports. This report is alarming as coastal forests are habitats for many rare plants and wildlife, such as the threatened swamp pink plant, Gizmodo reports.

Not only are the ghost forests expanding because of climate change, they could also be making hostile conditions worse through a feedback loop. Forests along the East Coast are riddled with evergreen trees that absorb carbon dioxide almost year-round, making them crucial carbon sinks that can lower carbon dioxide concentrations from the atmosphere, reports Gizmodo. With fewer evergreen trees, less carbon is removed from the air.

“One ecological benefit of healthy coastal forests is the sequestration and storage of carbon both aboveground and in soils. As coastal forests transition to marsh, we lose aboveground carbon. Some of that is released into the atmosphere, and some shifts to other carbon pools,” Lindsey Smart, a ghost forest expert at the North Carolina State University who was not part of the study, tells Gizmodo.ong the mid-Atlantic and southern New England coast, an eerie sight dots the changing landscape. Rising sea levels turn thriving green vistas of hardwood and evergreen trees into “ghost forests,” dried-up terrains filled with gnarled, dead, and dying timber. Under climate change, these could become an even more common sight, according to a new report published by Rutgers University.

Ghost forests are landscapes that form when saltwater begins to flood woodland areas that contain freshwater-dependent trees. The water high in salinity slowly poisons trees, and as they die, all that is left behind are ghostly gray trunks that resemble toothpicks. The trunks can last decades in this dried-up barren state, reports Dharna Noor for Gizmodo.

To mitigate ghost forests, coastal forests need protection from development, and proper planning and collaboration with landowners must be established, according to the Rutgers report. Solutions the researchers suggest include creating living shorelines by planting trees to slow erosion, depositing sediments to help marshes move to higher elevation as sea levels rise, and planting forest vegetation that can tolerate changes in soil.

“This study adds to the growing evidence that this is not a localized phenomenon, given other reports up and down the east coast,” Smart tells Gizmodo. “While the rate and extent varies based on local site characteristics, it’s clear that sea-level rise and the synergistic pressures between sea-level rise and land use modification…are changing our coasts, impacting our coastal forests.”

Source: What is a Ghost Forest? – Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine, 2021-03-19

Invasive beetles killing off Japan’s cherry, peach trees

By Japan News-Yomiuri
Cherry and peach trees across Japan are dying at the hands of invasive beetles, and one expert warns that in the worst-case scenario, there may be no cherry blossoms to view a few decades from now.

The first report of damage by the kubiakatsuya kamikiri (red-necked longhorn beetle) came in 2012 in Aichi Prefecture. Now, 11 prefectures have been hit, with cherry trees dying in parks and schools, as well as peach trees in orchards.

The beetle, native to China and Mongolia, was designated an invasive species in 2018. It may have arrived in Japan in wooden packing materials.

“No matter how many times we get rid of them, they just keep coming back,” said the office manager at Tatebayashi High School in Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture, while pointing out a tree that suffered holes in its trunk.

There were once 29 cherry trees fronting the school gate. They were popular among students and residents.

In July 2015, the trees started to die at the hands of the beetle. The school tried to fight off the bug with pesticide and covered tree trunks with protective nets. But swarms of beetles kept returning. By August, the staff was battling the bugs hands on and killed 350.

But since then, seven trees have been chopped down, and six stand dead. The remaining 16 are blooming poorly, and because large branches can suddenly fall off trunks, the school has given up. By the end of next year, all the trees will be gone.

The beetle’s high fertility and mobility make it especially threatening. While a Japanese long-horned beetle lays 100 eggs at most, the red-necked longhorn can lay more than 500 eggs and travel more than a mile by riding the wind.

With no natural enemies, its population abounds, and the fact that it prefers peach and cherry trees only exacerbates the problem. So far, there is no definitive method for eradicating the bug.

In Tatebayashi, the government is paying residents about 50 cents per beetle killed. Last year, citizens killed 6,249 beetles. Yet the number of damaged trees grew.

“If we don’t act now, we may not be able to enjoy cherry blossom viewing 20 to 30 years from now,” said Ryutaro Iwata, a specialist in forest entomology. “The central government must establish a system to forcibly cut down, crush and burn the damaged trees.”

Source: Invasive beetles killing off Japan’s cherry, peach trees – Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 2021-03-18