Posted on February 7, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Aerial surveys help track forest changes over time
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. 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
Filed under: agriculture, Environment, Forest health, forests, pine beetles, pine beetles and wildfires, US Forest Service | Tagged: aerial forest survey, Colorado, Forest health, forests, mountain pine beetles, spruce beetles | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 2, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Forest treatments that focus on removing smaller trees may not be the best tool for western dry forests, according to new research by University of Wyoming scientists.
Study shows many treatments in western dry forests are misguided
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Mid-elevation forests in the western U.S. have survived centuries of drought, wildfires and insect onslaughts by hedging their bets with a diversity of tree sizes, Wyoming researchers said after studying forest plots from the Pacific Northwest down to Arizona and New Mexico.
The research showed that the biggest threat to those forests is from insects and not wildfires. Historically abundant small trees enable those forests to rebound after tree-killing bugs move through. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, forest fires, Forest health, forests, pine beetles and wildfires | Tagged: Environment, Forest health, forests, West | Leave a comment »
Posted on December 18, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Forest Service scientists study aftermath of Rim Fire to assess effectiveness of forest health treatments
A NASA Earth Observatory image shows smoke plumes from the Rim Fire in August, 2013. NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.
FRISCO — A detailed new study of fire behavior of the 2013 Rim Fire in Yosemite provides a nuanced view of the effectiveness of forest health treatments.
The Rim Fire was the largest recorded fire in the Sierra Nevada region, and U.S. Forest Service researchers said in their study that the fire burned with moderate to high intensity on days the Rim Fire was dominated by a large pyro-convective plume, a powerful column of smoke, gases, ash, and other debris — regardless of the number of prior fires, topography, or forest conditions. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, forest fires, Forest health, forests, US Forest Service | Tagged: extreme weather, Forest health, Rim Fire, U.S. Forest Service, Wildfires | Leave a comment »
Posted on November 6, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
‘Solely relying on public forest management to prevent homes burning by wildfire is simply barking up the wrong tree’
A wildfire burns through a western conifer forest. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.
FRISCO — Aggressive firefighting and preventive forest treatments are not making people less vulnerable to wildfire impacts. Instead, government authorized and funded firefighting and land management policies may actually encourage development on inherently hazardous landscapes, leading to an amplification of human losses to wildfire, according to researchers with the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Colorado.
Their recent study in Nature says an adaptive approach, including changes in land-use policies, are the key to reducing wildfire risks, according to researchers with the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Colorado.
Filed under: Environment, forest fires, forests | Tagged: climate change, Colorado, public lands, wildfire policies, wildfire risks, Wildfires, wildland-urban interface | 1 Comment »
Posted on November 4, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Spruce beetle populations are surging in the southern Rocky Mountains. bberwyn photo.
Study calls out inaccurate media reports about links between bugs and wildfires
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Dire warnings about how beetle outbreaks make forests more prone to fires are ringing increasingly hollow, as more and more forest research shows that other factors — especially weather — are more important drivers. In some cases, defoliation by bugs may actually lessen the the threat of disastrous crown fires.
In one of the latest studies, researchers with the University of Oregon and the U.S. Forest Service took a close look at the relationship between fires and spruce budworm infestations in the Pacific Northwest. They found that defoliation reduces both torching and crowning potential. Continue reading
Filed under: Colorado, Environment, forest fires, Forest health, forests | Tagged: crown fires, Forest health, forests, western spruce budworm, Wildfires | Leave a comment »
Posted on September 30, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Dead and dying lodgepole pines in Frisco, Colorado.
Study shows no clear link between beetle-kill and ecological severity of western wildfires
FRISCO — For all their frenzied tree-killing during the past 10 years, mountain pine beetles haven’t been a big factor in the ecological severity of wildfires in the West, a team of university scientists said this week.
Weather and topography are the main factors in determining how much damage a wildfire does to forest ecosystems, according to the researchers with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides some of the first rigorous field data to test whether fires that burn in areas impacted by mountain pine beetles are more ecologically severe than in those not attacked by the native bug. The study didn’t look at fire behavior, including how fast they spread or how dangerous they are to fight. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, forest fires, Forest health, forests, pine beetles and wildfires | Tagged: fire intensity, forest fires, pine beetles, Wildfires | 3 Comments »
Posted on September 25, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
A new study examines the history of wildfires along the Colorado Front Range.
Historic wildfires in the pre-suppression era burned just as intensely, scientists say
FRISCO — New research challenges the conventional wisdom that wildfires along the Colorado Front Range have become more severe.
A detailed assessment of fire history across more 1 million acres of forest suggests that only 16 percent of the area showed a shift from historically low-severity fires to severe, potential crown fires that can jump from treetop to treetop.
Even in the days before fire suppression, fires along the Front Range were often destructive, killing many mature trees in the burn areas, the study concluded. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, forest fires, Forest health, forests | Tagged: Colorado, fire suppression, forest fires, Front Range, Wildfires | Leave a comment »