Native approaches to fire management could revitalize communities, Stanford researchers find

By Rob Jordan
It costs more than a new iPhone XS, and it’s made out of hazelnut shrub stems. Traditional baby baskets of Northern California’s Yurok and Karuk tribes come at a premium not only because they are handcrafted by skilled weavers, but because the stems required to make them are found only in forest understory areas experiencing a type of controlled burn once practiced by the tribes but suppressed for more than a century.

A new Stanford-led study with the U.S. Forest Service in collaboration with the Yurok and Karuk tribes found that incorporating traditional techniques into current fire suppression practices could help revitalize American Indian cultures, economies and livelihoods, while continuing to reduce wildfire risks. The findings could inform plans to incorporate the cultural burning practices into forest management across an area one and a half times the size of Rhode Island.

“Burning connects many tribal members to an ancestral practice that they know has immense ecological and social benefit especially in the aftermath of industrial timber activity and ongoing economic austerity,” said study lead author Tony Marks-Block, a doctoral candidate in anthropology who worked with Lisa Curran, the Roger and Cynthia Lang Professor in Environmental Anthrolopogy.

“We must have fire in order to continue the traditions of our people,” said Margo Robbins, a Yurok basket weaver and director of the Yurok Cultural Fire Management Council who advised the researchers. “There is such a thing as good fire.”

The study, published in Forest Ecology and Management, replicates Yurok and Karuk fire treatments that involve cutting and burning hazelnut shrub stems. The approach increased the production of high-quality stems (straight, unbranched and free of insect marks or bark blemishes) needed to make culturally significant items such as baby baskets and fish traps up to 10-fold compared with untreated shrubs.

Reducing fuel load

Previous studies have shown that repeated prescribed burning reduces fuel for wildfires, thus reducing their intensity and size in seasonally dry forests such as the one the researchers studied in the Klamath Basin area near the border with Oregon. This study was part of a larger exploration of prescribed burns being carried out by Stanford and U.S. Forest Service researchers who collaborated with the Yurok and Karuk tribes to evaluate traditional fire management treatments. Together, they worked with a consortium of federal and state agencies and nongovernmental organizations across 5,570 acres in the Klamath Basin.

The consortium has proposed expanding these “cultural burns” – which have been greatly constrained throughout the tribes’ ancestral lands – across more than 1 million acres of federal and tribal lands that are currently managed with techniques including less targeted controlled burns or brush removal.

Source: Native approaches to fire management could revitalize communities, Stanford researchers find – Stanford news Service, 2019-08-27

Scientists call for gene-edited trees in certified forests

By Joan Conrow
Fifteen scientists published a letter in Science Magazine today calling on international forest certification programs to review and modify policies that exclude genetically engineered or gene-edited trees.

Their call reflects the sentiments of some 1,000 signatories from across the globe who signed a recent petition managed by the Alliance for Science.

The statement is important because more than 500 million hectares — some 13 percent of the world’s forest — are affected by the largest certification systems, which are intended to reassure consumers that the wood they buy is sustainably sourced. The scientists argue that genetically engineered (GE) trees can make significant contributions to sustainable forest management — especially now that forests face mounting stresses posed by invasive pests and climate change.

“To face the challenges of forest health, carbon sequestration, and maintenance of other ecological services, we must use all available tools,” they wrote. “GE tree research should be allowed immediately on certified land, and GE trees proven by research to provide value should eventually be allowed in certified forests.”

In making their call, the scientists noted the “great promise” shown by field trials of trees with traits related to sustainability, such as productivity, wood quality, pest and stress resistance, protection of endangered species and reproductive control. They also pointed out that there are no hazards unique to GE methods compared with conventional breeding methods.

Source: Scientists call for gene-edited trees in certified forests – Alliance for Science, 2019-08-23

Longleaf Pine on the Santee Experimental Forest

By Jennifer Moore Myers
In 1989, South Carolina’s Francis Marion National Forest lost close to a third of its pine and hardwood trees to Hurricane Hugo. USDA Forest Service land managers have spent the last thirty years recovering from that disturbance and working to meet the state’s growing needs for clean water, forest products, recreation areas, and wildlife habitat.

To that end, the Francis Marion adopted a new forest plan in 2017 focused upon restoring longleaf pine, the once-dominant southern species, across 33,000 acres of national forest lands.
This goal and the management work to implement it are based on a body of experimental research about forest ecology and hydrology — much of it conducted on the Santee Experimental Forest.

The Santee sits on the west side of the Francis Marion. Established in 1937, it’s a 6,100-acre living laboratory that has hosted many long-term studies on the effects of fire, hurricanes, and forest management practices on tree growth, streamflow, and wildlife communities.

SRS scientists and national forest managers have teamed up to study the impacts of replacing existing loblolly pine stands with longleaf pine.

Earlier, fine-scale studies suggest that water yield from longleaf pine landscapes may be greater than that from loblolly pine or mixed pine and hardwood stands due to differences in forest structure and composition between the two pine environments.

“Longleaf pine restoration is a priority for the Southern Region of the National Forest System,” says research soil scientist Carl Trettin. “This project is an opportunity to advance the current science on longleaf restoration to broader scales as well as support the Region and the Forest.”

Source: Longleaf Pine on the Santee Experimental Forest – USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, 2019-06-13

Wood-based technology creates electricity from heat

A University of Maryland-led team of researchers has created a heat-to-electricity device that runs on ions and which could someday harness the body’s heat to provide energy.

A University of Maryland-led team of researchers has created a heat-to-electricity device that runs on ions and which could someday harness the body’s heat to provide energy.

Source: Wood-based technology creates electricity from heat – Phys.org, 2019-03-25

Hidden giants in forest soils

Only a fraction of the microbes residing in, on and around soils have been identified through efforts to understand their contributions to global nutrient cycles. Soils are also home to countless viruses that can infect microbes, impacting their ability to regulate these global cycles. In Nature Communications, giant virus genomes have been discovered for the first time in a forest soil ecosystem by researchers from the DOE Joint Genome Institute and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Characterizing the diversity of microbial cells in a handful of soil is so complex it was considered impossible. To date, only a small fraction of the microbes residing in, on and around soils have been identified as part of efforts to understand their contributions to the global carbon cycle, and to other nutrient cycles. Soils are also home to countless viruses that can infect microbes, impacting their ability to regulate these global cycles.

Reported November 19, 2018, in Nature Communications, giant virus genomes have been discovered for the first time in a forest soil ecosystem by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass Amherst). As the name implies, giant viruses are characterized by disproportionately large genomes and virions that house the viruses’ genetic material. They have been frequently found within protists and algae, and thus they are believed to have a significant impact on their hosts’ population dynamics and the planet’s biogeochemical cycles.

Source: Hidden giants in forest soils – EurekAlert, 2018-11-19

UPM and FSC® announce a global strategic partnership

UPM and the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) announce a global strategic partnership to develop solutions for advancing the uptake of FSC in the market. UPM and FSC signed the partnership agreement on the 16th of May 2017 during the FSC international members meeting in Karkkila, Finland. The partnership aims at delivering benefits to forest owners through FSC certification and to increase the FSC-certified wood supply.

UPM has actively cooperated with FSC both on international and national level for several years. The company has been involved in developing the FSC certification in order to enhance its applicability to the fragmented private forest ownership in Finland. This work will be strengthened through the newly agreed partnership.

Source: UPM and FSC® announce a global strategic partnership – GlobeNewswire, 2017-05-17

Termite gut holds a secret to breaking down plant biomass

In the Microbial Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the incredibly efficient eating habits of a fungus-cultivating termite are surprising even to those well acquainted with the insect’s natural gift for turning wood to dust.

According to a study published today (April 17, 2017) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, when poplar wood undergoes a short, 3.5-hour transit through the gut of the termite, the emerging feces is almost devoid of lignin, the hard and abundant polymer that gives plant cells walls their sturdiness. As lignin is notorious for being difficult to degrade, and remains a costly obstacle for wood processing industries such as biofuels and paper, the termite is the keeper of a highly sought after secret: a natural system for fully breaking down biomass.

“The speed and efficiency with which the termite is breaking down the lignin polymer is totally unexpected,” says John Ralph, a UW-Madison professor of biochemistry, researcher at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) and lignin expert. “The tantalizing implication is that this gut system holds keys to breaking down lignin using processes that are completely unknown.”

Source: Termite gut holds a secret to breaking down plant biomass – EurekAlert! Science News, 2017-04-17

Greenhouse gas effect from mangrove forest conversion is quite significant

Clear-cutting of tropical mangrove forests to create shrimp ponds and cattle pastures contributes significantly to the greenhouse gas effect, one of the leading causes of global warming, new research suggests.

A seven-year study, led by Oregon State University and the Center for International Forestry Research, spanned five countries across the topics from Indonesia to the Dominican Republic. The researchers concluded that mangrove conversion to agricultural uses resulted in a land-use carbon footprint of 1,440 pounds of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere for the production of every pound of beef; and 1,603 pounds of released carbon dioxide for every pound of shrimp.

Source: Greenhouse gas effect caused by mangrove forest conversion is quite significant – EurekAlert! Science News, 2017-04-10

Trimble to Offer Complete System for Forestry Supply Chain Management with Acquisition of BOS Forestry

Trimble (TRMB) announced today that it has acquired Canadian-based BOS Forestry, a provider of collaboration, harvesting, production and lumber sale solutions for small- and medium-sized forestry companies. The addition of BOS Forestry emphasizes Trimble’s focus on technologies that address the complete end-to-end ecosystem for forest management, traceability and timber processing. Financial terms were not disclosed.

BOS Forestry’s suite of applications provide simplified processes for scale site, log load, yard inventory, contractor settlement, finished goods sales and distribution. In addition, BOS offers a trade portal that facilitates the collaboration of wood supply stakeholders and brings together an innovative network for buyers and sellers to make more informed decisions and improve fiber productivity by leveraging all aggregated log load data transactions. The integration of BOS Trade into Trimble’s Connected Forest portfolio provides a key component to enable transparency and visibility across the fiber business.

Trimble’s Connected Forest solutions manage the full raw materials lifecycle of planning, planting, growing, harvesting, transporting and processing. The solutions improve decision making at every step—from forest to mill and from land acquisition to product delivery­—by combining industry-specialized software and state-of-the-art hardware into solutions for land, forest and fiber management. Trimble offers the most comprehensive supply chain solutions available to the forest industry today.

Source: Trimble to Offer Complete End-to-End Ecosystem for Forestry Supply Chain Management with Acquisition of BOS Forestry – PRNewswire, 2017-04-10

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