Forests and CO2 — It’s complicated!

One of the few lodgepole seedlings to survive the industrial clearcutting on the north shore of the Frisco Peninsula.

Climate models may be overestimating the carbon-capturing capacity of forests. @bberwyn photo.

Loss of nitrogen a key factor in forest equation

Staff Report

Forests may grow faster as atmospheric CO2 increases, but that doesn’t mean they’ll absorb more of the heat-trapping gas. Instead, a shortage of nitrogen means plants won’t be able to fix as much carbon as projected by some climate models.

“Forests take up carbon from the atmosphere, but in order for the plants to fix the carbon, it requires a certain amount of nitrogen,” said researchers Prasanth  who took a close look at the chemistry of secondary forests that are regrowing after deforestation, wood harvest and fires.

“If that ratio of carbon to nitrogen isn’t right, even if you add many times more carbon than it gets currently, the forests cannot absorb the extra carbon,” Meiyappan said. Continue reading

Global summit highlights crucial role of forests in climate change, economic development efforts

Slowing deforestation requires integration of forest planning with other sectors like water and agriculture


Global forests are a key resource that require more attention, experts said at the UN’s forest congress in Durban, South Africa. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Management of the world’s forests must be integrated with other land use planning efforts in order to address the root causes of deforestation, and forests should be recognized as “more than trees,” experts concluded at last week’s World Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa.

With good management, forests have great potential to help end hunger, increasing wealth and improving livelihoods in developing countries, as well as in slowing climate change, the delegates from around the world said in the session-ending Durban Declaration.

Continue reading

Wet spring and summer may dampen fall colors

Some aspens and cottonwoods have been hit by leaf blight


An aspen stand in the Lower Blue Valley, north of Silverthorne, Colorado.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado’s wet spring and summer dampened the fire danger and kept the state nearly drought-free, but there may be a down side. Some of the state’s aspens and cottonwoods may not be at their most brilliant this autumn, after leaf-spot diseases afflicted some stands in northern Colorado and along the Front Range.

The Colorado State Forest Service says tree experts have been seeing an unusually high degree of leaf blight spreading as far south as Aspen, the Collegiate Peaks and Colorado Springs.

At least two fungal diseases are to blame for the leaves now showing significant spotting or dark splotches. Marssonina leaf spot is caused by the Marssonina fungus and is the most common leaf disease of aspen and cottonwoods in Colorado. The disease can be identified by the presence of dark brown spots or flecks on leaves, which can then fuse into large, black splotches on severely infected leaves. Continue reading

Study says some forests may not recover from mega-disturbances in the global warming era

Colorado aspens

There have been significant die-backs in Colorado aspen forests during recent hot droughts and the stands may never regenerate in some areas because of global warming. @bberwyn photo.

Giant fires, insect outbreaks could be ‘game-changer’ for some forests

Staff Report

FRISCO —Forest Service researchers say “mega-disturbances” like giant wildfires and insect outbreaks are likely to hasten the slow demise of temperate forest ecosystems in the coming decades.

Even without those large-scale events, some forests appear to be transitioning to shrublands and steppe, and big disturbances could speed that process, according to a new study published this month in Science. Continue reading

Morning photo: Got ‘shrooms?

Yes, it’s mushroom season in Colorado

FRISCO — I haven’t been posting about mushrooms as often as in past years, but that’s not because I’ve lost my fascination with the curious, ephemeral forest fruits that only appear for a few weeks in summer and early fall. I’ve noticed a general uptick in interest in fungi during the past few years and am hoping that it goes beyond simply harvesting for the table to an appreciation of the incredible role that mushrooms play in forest ecosystems. To advance that appreciation, I suggest checking in with the Colorado Mycological Society, which holds mushroom forays on many summer weekends, when you can learn from experts. Of note, the group will hold its annual mushroom fair this year on Sept. 6 at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Another great chance to learn about mountain mushrooms is at the 19th annual King Bolete Festival in Buena Vista.

New study details global warming impact to forests

‘We expect to see widespread declines in forest productivity’


Red beetle-killed lodgepole pines in the White River National Forest near Frisco, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The vulnerability of the world’s forests to global warming has been widely underestimated, a group of scientists concluded after taking a hard look at all the scientific data on forest mortality.

“We expect to see widespread declines in forest productivity, changes in the species composition and dominance patterns of forest trees, a shift to smaller-sized trees, and reductions in forest extent in some regions,” said U.S. Geological Survey researcher Craig Allen, adding that, even forests in wetter parts of the world are going to be affected by rapidly warming global temperatures. Continue reading

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


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