By Amanda Peacher
In a region of Austria known as the wood quarter, a logger used a chainsaw to slice through the base of a 100-foot tall spruce tree on a recent foggy morning.
Herbert Schmid, a forester, watched from a distance as the big spruce dropped to the forest floor. Schmid handpicked that particular tree to be cut today. He manages this forest according to “close-to-nature” practices, or Pro Silva standards.
It’s an ancient technique of astute observation, low-intervention forestry that allows trees to grow and age before harvest. Forestry experts say it’s a valuable model as European forests face climate change and potentially more fires.
By Dr. Ranil Senanayake
What is known by science reveals the forest as an ecosystem of tremendous complexity. The trees, while providing the essential framework of a forest constitutes only a fraction of the total biodiversity. It contains a huge array of organisms, that continually change in form and function. Thus biodiversity is what gives a forest its identity. It should also be borne in mind that, from the small bushes of an area after a fire to the tall growth fifty years later, the species and architecture goes through many changes, and all these ecosystems are expressions of the growing, maturing forest.
The international response to the loss of natural forest ecosystems can be seen in the massive global investment in forestry. However, a great majority of these revegetation programs around the world do not seem to provide an environment that is hospitable for sustaining local forest biodiversity. A situation brought about by neglect of the ecological and biodiverse reality of a forest in project planning. There is no excuse to be found in the argument that there was no information. Forest Ecology has a long and distinguished history in the scientific literature. The result of this neglect was that institutional forestry activity was centered around the growing of even aged monocultures of fast growing trees with no requirement to attend to the rehabilitation of forests.
The discussions on the sustainable management of forests still lack clear definitions creating a sense of confusion in the identification of goals. For instance, the inability to distinguish between plantations and forests have allowed processes that have led to a massive reduction of forest biodiversity. A clear definition of ‘a Forest’ needs to be clarified and harmonized in statements transmitted from the CBD to the IPF or the CSD. As forests are biological entities, any criteria or indicator chosen to represent biodiversity status must be rooted in biological variables. The current practices of assessing physical cover alone will not adequately indicate forest quality and trends. In this context, socio-cultural values should also be incorporated into the setting of criteria and indicators. Further, for every acre of forest that stands today, hundreds of acres of forest have been lost in the surrounding countryside. Yet there has been no mention of the need for rehabilitation and recovery of the biodiversity status of such degraded lands. If these fundamental issues are not addressed, the loss of forests and biodiversity in these critical ecosystems cannot be contained.
By Daisy Dunne
Forests containing several tree species could store twice as much carbon as the average monoculture plantation, research finds.
A study looking at the carbon storage of forests in southern China finds that each additional tree species introduced to a plantation could add 6% to its total carbon stocks.
The findings suggest that afforestation programmes – which aim to plant trees to “suck” CO2 out of the atmosphere – should switch from using just one plant species to a more diverse mix, a study author tells Carbon Brief.
Planting a diverse range of trees could also bring many co-benefits, the author adds, including providing habitats for a larger range of animals.
However, the relatively small scale of the experiment may have led researchers to overestimate the relationship between tree species diversity and carbon storage, other scientists tell Carbon Brief.
New research suggests the removal of timber harvest residue during harvesting may be a boon for wild bees, an important step toward better understanding the planet’s top group of pollinators.
The findings are important because bees are the driving force behind $100 billion in global economic impact each year, with insect pollinators enhancing the reproduction of 90 percent of the Earth’s flowering plants, including many food crops.
Insect pollinators are also ecologically critical as promoters of biodiversity. Bees are the standard bearer because they’re usually present in the greatest numbers and because they’re the only pollinator group that feeds exclusively on nectar and pollen their entire life.
Researchers at Oregon State University spent two years studying 28 contiguous 1-acre clearcut sites. They assessed whether the abundance and diversity of wild bees was affected by the removal of timber harvest residue, also known as slash, and the soil compaction that goes along with it.
“Bees are important for biodiversity in managed forest landscapes but we just don’t have a very good handle on them in these areas,” said lead scientist Jim Rivers of the OSU College of Forestry.
The study plots occurred within a managed conifer forest in western Oregon. Each plot received one of five unique treatments, ranging from removing only the boles – tree trunks that are used to make lumber – without compacting the soil at all (no heavy equipment used on the plot) to removing all of the logging slash and compacting the entire plot.
The findings were surprising, Rivers said.
“The combination of the most intense timber residue removal and soil compaction treatment made for the greatest number and diversity of bees,” he said.
Changes in climate and extreme weather are already increasing challenges for forest ecosystems across the world. Many impacts are expected to remain into the future. This means forest managers, conservationists and woodland owners continually need to address climate change to ensure forests can provide a broad array of benefits and services. The USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub and the U.S. Forest Service provide tools to help address this need.
Collaboration between scientists and managers resulted in the publication Forest Adaptation Resources: Climate Change Tools and Approaches for Land Managers. This publication provides a suite of materials enabling land managers to consider the likely effects of climate change and increase the ability of forests to cope with climate change impacts.
A 10-year logging impacts study by University of Kentucky forestry researchers rates management practices used in the state’s prolific hardwood forests effective and advises only minor changes to better protect more than 90,000 streams and rivers.
The study advises doubling the minimum distance between waterways and logging roads or skid trails. Current practice is a minimum of 25 feet, or 55 feet in steeper grounds.
The combination of thriving forest industries and access to an abundance of large and small waterways makes protecting the commonwealth’s water a priority. The UK Department of Forestry has been a partner in the development of best management practices (BMPs) in woodlands since the Kentucky legislature created the Agriculture Water Quality Authority in 1994. The authority’s mission is to alleviate pollution to surface and groundwater resources from agriculture and forestry activities.
UK forestry professors, Jeff Stringer, silviculture, and Chris Barton, forest hydrology and watershed management, oversaw more than a dozen graduate students and a number of undergraduate interns from 2004 to 2014 who examined logging impacts on forest resources in eight watersheds located in Robinson Forest, the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s research and education forest in southeastern Kentucky. Loggers harvested two watersheds using the current standard for best management practices. They logged four other watersheds using two different BMP treatments that the researchers theorized would provide more protection. Two additional watersheds were left unharvested as controls.
“At the end of the day, what we saw was that our current recommended BMPs do a pretty good job of protecting our water resources,” Barton said. “With that said, we also found that the best management practice changes we made in the other watersheds actually provided some additional protection. Our BMP treatment that provided the most protection was not statistically different than the unharvested control for nearly all of the parameters examined.”
One change resulting from the study was to increase the distance between streams and skid trails and logger roads. The process of mechanically moving trees can create erosion, which ends up in streams.