Genetic research helps forest scientists determine which trees can survive global warming

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Can forests evolve to survive global warming?

Research will inform forest planning efforts

Staff Report

FRISCO — Spanish scientists say they can use genetic data to help determine which pine trees are most vulnerable to climate change, and which trees might be able to thrive in a warmer world. Their findings, published in GENETICS, could help forestry managers decide where to focus reforestation efforts and guide the choice of tree stocks.

The study focused on maritime pines, which grows widely in southwestern Europe and parts of northern Africa. But the tree’s important economic value and ecological roles in the region may be at risk as the changing climate threatens the more vulnerable forests and the productivity of commercial plantations. Continue reading

Wheat experts warn on global warming impacts

Wheat field in Upper Austria

A wheat field ripens under a summer sun. bberwyn photo

Extreme weather could cut global yields by 25 percent

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists in the biggest wheat-producing state in the U.S. issued a stark climate change warning last week, saying that 25 percent of the world’s wheat production will be lost to extreme weather if no adaptive measures are taken.

The research by scientists at Kansas State University concluded that global wheat yields are likely to decrease by 6 percent for each 1 degree Celsius of temperature rise. In the next few decades, that could add up to a 25 percent loss in global wheat yields. Continue reading

Environment: Can adaptive grazing techniques help rebuild soils and sequester carbon?

Most modern cattle, including these longhorns near Silverthorne, Colorado, are descended from a

Adaptive grazing could have environmental benefits, researchers say. bberwyn photo.

Short-rotation pastures with long recovery time for fields may yield environmental benefits

Staff Report

FRISCO — While healthy forests are known to be important carbon sinks in the global atmospheric cycle, there’s also a role for robust soils, according to a study team that’s exploring whether new grazing management techniques could have long-term environmental benefits.

The Arizona State University-SoilCarbon Nation team is looking at adaptive multi-paddock grazing, rotating stock through small pastures for short periods of grazing and longer recovery periods for soil and vegetation.  The method mimics the migrations of wild herd animals, such as elk, bison and deer, and could help create robust soils, watersheds and wildlife habitat while sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide. Continue reading

Gulf of Mexico dead zone cleanup target pushed back

States outline small voluntary steps toward new 2035 deadline

A NOAA graphic shows the impacts of nutrient loading by highlight oxygen-starved dead zones in red.

A NOAA graphic shows the impacts of nutrient loading by highlightig oxygen-starved dead zones in red. A task force hopes to shrink the dead zone significantly by 2035.

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a classic example of government double-speak, the EPA announced this week that Mississippi River Basin states want to speed the reduction of nutrients that cause a huge Gulf of Mexico dead zone, but that they’re pushing back their target date for a cleanup by 20 years. Continue reading

Environment: Lawsuit highlights herbicide ‘death spiral’

A ladybug enjoys a leisurely stroll in an organic Austrian corn field.

A ladybug enjoys a leisurely stroll in an organic corn field.

Court challenge aimed at protecting whooping cranes, endangered bats

Staff Report

FRISCO — Hoping to forestall a DDT-type disaster, environmental groups and farmers last week moved to block the EPA’s approval of a new herbicide that could threaten endangered species.

In a federal court, the groups said the approval violates the Endangered Species Act because the EPA failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the impact of Enlist Duo on two endangered species in those states, the whooping crane and the Indiana bat.  Continue reading

Aerial survey shows pine beetles waning, but spruce beetles continue to spread across Colorado forests

Aerial surveys help track forest changes over time

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Nearly every mature spruce has been killed by spruce beetle in this drainage on the Rio Grande National Forest.Photo: Brian Howell.

Spruce beetles are spreading quickly in southwestern Colorado.

Spruce beetles are spreading quickly in southwestern Colorado. Graph courtesy USFS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — There’s good news and bad news from Colorado’s forests. Mountain pine beetle activity has faded to the lowest level since 1996, but spruce beetles continue to spread in the San Juans and in northwestern Colorado.

The spruce beetle outbreak was detected on 485,000 acres in 2014, compared to 398,000 acres across the state in 2013, according to the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service. The annual aerial survey by the two agencies shows that the spruce beetle outbreak expanded to 253,000 new acres. Continue reading

Disturbances have big effect on carbon uptake in southeastern forests

Florida oak.

Florida oak.

‘Continued forest carbon accumulation in the region is highly sensitive to land use transitions’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Forest disturbances, such as fire, disease, and cutting, as well as the impacts of land use change, may be slowing the carbon uptake of southeastern U.S. forests, according to a new U.S. Forest Service study.

The research shows that future carbon accumulation rates are highly sensitive to land use changes. Land use choices that either reduce the rate of afforestation or increase the rate of deforestation are key factors in future forest carbon accumulation, the scientists concluded in their report, published in the journal Scientific Reports. Continue reading

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