Study: Western pine beetle outbreak may have weakened next generation of trees by wiping out key fungi

Hawk's wing Colorado mushrooms

Important mushroom species that help trees grow were wiped out by the mountain pine beetle epidemic, potentially leaving future forests more susceptible to renewed insect attacks. @bberwyn photo.

Widespread mushroom die-off dramatically lowers seedling survival rate

Staff Report

FRISCO — The recent pine beetle outbreak in western forests may have left the next generation of trees more vulnerable to future pests, Canadian researchers concluded in a new study that examined how the wave of tree deaths affected fungi that grow together with lodgepole pines.

Many trees, including lodgepoles, are partly dependent on certain fungi that enable a nutrient exchange at the cellular level. But the pine beetle outbreak was so widespread that many of the beneficial fungi disappeared. Continue reading

House GOP tries to slash forest environmental rules

Logging on the Frisco Peninsula, Sept. 2011. @bberwyn photo.

Logging on the Frisco Peninsula, Sept. 2011. @bberwyn photo.

‘The public will be looking at irreparable habitat damage, polluted watersheds and drinking water and a devastated outdoor economy’

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Anti-environmental Republicans in the House are once again trying to fast-track logging projects under the guise of forest health. They also want to discourage citizen involvement in forest management decisions and try and stop conservation groups from challenging illegal logging projects in court.

The House last week passed H.R. 2647, with the Orwellian name of “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015.”

Here’s a bill summary posted at govtrack.us:

“The Resilient Federal Forests Act would make a variety of changes to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service forest management standards such as requiring studies on plans in response to forest fires, insect and disease infestation, and catastrophic events. It would also make it more difficult to issue a lawsuit against the Forest Service by requiring plaintiffs who lose lawsuits to pay for the agency’s legal expenses, and in some cases by exempting the agency from paying the plaintiff’s legal expenses if the plaintiff wins.”

Govtrack gives the bill just a 15 percent chance of being signed into law, mainly because the extreme rightwingers in the House included language that won’t be acceptable to moderate Republicans in the Senate.

In effect, the House GOP quashed any real chance at passing any meaningful forest management reform because they insisted on pursuing an extreme, ideologically bill. That becomes apparent when you read the statement from Rob Bishop, the Utah Republican who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee:

“The verdict is in. The draconian environmental policies and litigation assaults of the past thirty years have failed our forests. Horrific wildfires are running rampant in our National Forest System. H.R. 2647 gives the Forest Service the resources it needs to suppress these devastating wildfires and gives them the tools they need to prevent fires before they start. I am proud of Rep. Westerman and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their advancement of H.R. 2647, a bill which makes enormous progress toward restoring the health of our treasured national forests.”

Conservation groups are not thrilled about the bill. Defenders of Wildlife said the measure would “bulldoze bedrock environmental laws to pave the way for dramatic increases in logging in forests across America.”

This bill turns back the clock 50 years on forest management and puts our nation’s forests at risk by green-lighting reckless logging practices, damaging vital wildlife habitat, short-cutting critical environmental review, and limiting public involvement in forest management decisions.

“This is a sad testament to the fact that instead of leading the charge on conserving America’s valued forests, many in Congress seem bent on casting aside our nation’s foundational conservation laws,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO, Defenders of Wildlife. “Dramatically increasing logging based upon little to no environmental analysis is like racing down the highway with your windshield painted black. You know that the outcome will not be good. The public will be looking at irreparable habitat damage, polluted watersheds and drinking water and a devastated outdoor economy.

“Rather than recklessly rolling back time-tested conservation laws, Congress should focus on the one and only legislative reform actually needed for our nation’s forests—properly funding the fire-fighting budget,” Rappaport Clark said.

New bug outbreak hitting Colorado trees

State foresters say pine needle scale infestation may be linked with heavy use of pesticides in war against pine beetles

Pine needle scale is weakening and killing conifer trees in the Colorado mountains.

Pine needle scale is weakening and killing conifer trees in the Colorado mountains, possibly as a result of the earlier heavy application of pesticides used to try and kill mountain pine beetles. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado forest experts are documenting an unprecedented outbreak of pine needle scale on conifer trees in Grand, Summit and Eagle counties that may be linked with the widespread application of pesticides used several years ago to try and kill mountain pine beetles.

The intensive use of those pesticides may have wiped out beneficial insects like predatory wasps and beetles that keep pine needle scale in check, said Granby-based Ron Cousineau, district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service.

“Most of the concentrated spray for mountain pine beetle ended about three, four or five years ago. That’s when we started seeing the buildup of pine needle scale,” Cousineau said. Continue reading

Science behind the scenery at Rocky Mountain NP

Aspen ecology, boreal toad presentation coming up

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Rocky Mountain National Park from Trail Ridge Road. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — National Parks aren’t just places to spend a great vacation. Because they’re relatively untouched by development, they also serve as living laboratories where scientists can study plants and animals in an undisturbed setting.

Researchers who have specialized in understanding Rocky Mountain ecosystems will be sharing their expertise as part of Rocky Mountain National Park’s centennial Science Behind The Scenery Programs in the next few weeks every Thursday evening (7:30 p.m.) at the Beaver Meadows visitor center. The talks are free and open to the public. Continue reading

Global warming to speed up forest die-offs

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Taller trees, like this California redwood, are most susceptible to global warming impacts, a new study says. @bberwyn photo.

‘The warming climate is creating a threat to global forests unlike any in recorded history’

Staff Report

*More Summit Voice stories on forests and climate change here

FRISCO — Forest researchers have been seeing the warning signs for decades — global warming is speeding up tree deaths around the world.

The pace of those changes is likely to speed up, according to scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“The warming climate is creating a threat to global forests unlike any in recorded history,” said Nathan McDowell, of Los Alamos’ Earth and Environmental Sciences Division. “Forests store the majority of terrestrial carbon and their loss may have significant and sustained impacts on the global carbon cycle.” Continue reading

How do changing forests affect bees?

Changes in southeastern forests may be contributing to the decline of bee populations, @bberwyn photo.

Changes in southeastern forests may be contributing to the decline of bee populations, @bberwyn photo.

Forest Service study helps unravel pollinator decline mystery Staff Report FRISCO — U.S. Forest Service scientists say they’ve solved another part of the biological puzzle surrounding the alarming decline of bee populations. Changes in forest structure from open to closed canopies are likely contributing to the decline, especially of native bees, at least in some regions. “Bees prefer open forests,” said Jim Hanula, a research entomologist at the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station. “We found that total tree basal area was the best predictor for how many bees would be present.” Continue reading

Massive Colorado logging project threatens lynx

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Proposed logging on thousands of acres of national forest lands near Leadville, Colorado could threaten important denning and feeding areas used by threatened lynx.

Conservation advocates go to court to block Tennessee Pas project

Staff Report

FRISCO — The threat of widespread logging in an area where lynx are slowly reestablishing a Colorado presence has spurred a new lawsuit by forest conservation advocates.

The recently approved 10-year project is in the Tennessee Pass area, mostly on lands managed by the Leadville Ranger District of the San Isabel National Forest.

The Forest Service green light potentially permits logging across more 12,000 acres, including 2,370 acres of clear cutting and 6,765 acres of commercial thinning and construction of 20 miles of temporary roads.

The scenery, historic status and wildlife of the Tennessee Pass area are all at risk, said Kevin Mueller, WildEarth Guardians Utah-Southern Rockies Conservation Manager.

“If this forest service logging proposal is approved, a patchwork of clear cuts could be visible on all sides of the Turquoise Lake Basin,” Mueller said. “This litigation centers on USFS refusal to protect forested slopes known to represent critical den habitat for threatened lynx,” said attorney John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center. “Our goal is ecologically resilient forests that support healthy wildlife and lynx populations. Clear-cutting would further undermine lynx and other vulnerable species,” Mellgren said. Continue reading

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