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

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

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