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Is out-of-state firewood a threat to Colorado trees?

Trees? Or toothpicks?

Beetle-killed trees near Frisco, Colorado.

State Forest Service warns against transporting firewood

Staff Report

FRISCO — It may be a little like the Dutch boy putting his finger in the leaky dike, but Colorado Forest Service officials are warning that transporting firewood from place to place may increase the spread of invasive tree-killing bugs.

Moving firewood even short distances increases the risk to Colorado’s native forests and urban trees. With the 2013 detection of the highly destructive emerald ash borer in the City of Boulder, and ongoing bark beetle epidemics in the state’s mountain forests, the Colorado State Forest Service wants to be sure people are aware of the risks associated with moving firewood. Continue reading

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Forests: Spruce beetles spreading fast in southern Rockies

State report details status of insect activities

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Spruce beetles are widely active across the mountains of southern Colorado.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Windstorms, mild winters and drought are the key factors in the continued spread of spruce beetles, which have become the dominant change agent in Colorado forests the past few years.

According to the latest annual forest health report compiled by state forest experts, spruce beetles were active across 398,000 acres in 2013, affected more than triple the amount of acreage than mountain pine beetles. Continue reading

Environment: Study says overpopulation of deer at root of invasive plant problem in Pennsylvania forests

Ecosystem breakdown more complex than just invasive species

Colorado mule deer.

Colorado mule deer. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Valiant weed warriors, who have made it their mission to try and eradicate non-native plants, may want to think about the bigger ecological picture as they plan their weekend weed pulls.

A new study led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Susan Kalisz suggests that, in some cases, invasive plants overwhelm native ecosystems because of an overpopulation of deer. The density of deer in the United States is about four to 10 times what it was prior to European settlement of North America. That density, Kalisz posits, is the main reason garlic mustard is crowding out native plants, such as trillium, which are preferred food for wild deer. Continue reading

Forest fumes play big role in global climate

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What’s the role of coniferous trees in regulating climate?

Fast growth of particles from pine tree fumes surprises researchers

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Forests may play a much bigger role in global climate than previously believed. In addition to cycling carbon, it appears that gases wafting from conifers quickly form small particles that can reflect sunlight and promote cloud formation, according to a new study that looked at forest aerosols at the molecular level.

“In many forested regions, you can go and observe particles apparently form from thin air. They’re not emitted from anything, they just appear,” said Joel Thornton, a University of Washington associate professor of atmospheric sciences. Continue reading

Dartmouth study suggests clearcutting and ‘snow farming’ as global warming mitigation

This near-total clearcut near Frisco, Colorado, may provide a higher-value ecosystem service than a slow-growing forest. bberwyn photo.

This near-total clearcut near Frisco, Colorado, may provide a higher-value ecosystem service than a slow-growing forest. bberwyn photo.

Higher albedo of snow-covered ground a factor in climate mitigation calculations

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Snow farming is nothing new for ski area operators, who have long been cultivating the white stuff to help keep their slopes covered. Now, a recent study by researchers at Darthmouth College suggests that snow farming could also make sense on a larger scale, in the context of climate-change mitigation.

In a novel look at forests and snow, their report says that replacing forests with snow-covered meadows may provide greater climatic and economic benefits than if slow-growing trees are left standing in snowy high latitudes. In those areas, persistent snow cover reflects heat back into space, partially offsetting the effect of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Continue reading

Morning photo: Treescapes

Winter wonderland

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Scruffy middle-aged lodgepole pines help frame this early morning shot of the Gore Range.

FRISCO — Even scruffy little lodgepole pines take on a whole new aura with a blanket of new snow, and Colorado’s tall spruce and firs can look downright majestic in the early morning glow of a post-storm sunset. For this set, I looked through the archives for the past couple of weeks, choosing images that emphasize the transcendent impact of freshly fallen snow on high country forests. For more Summit County and Colorado landscapes, visit our online Fine Art America gallery. Continue reading

Logging no panacea for pine beetle outbreaks

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Can we log our way to forest health?

Science sometimes missing from forest management policies

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — While politicians and policy makers continue to conflate a number of complex forest health and wildfire issues, a new study suggests there’s little evidence supporting the idea that logging helps to control or contain the spread of tree-killing pine beetles.

Nobody disputes the need to clear trees, brush and other fuels from around homes in fire-prone forest areas, but some lawmakers who should know better have been pushing for more logging under the guise of restoring forest health and as an antidote to insect infestations.

The idea that speedy approval of logging projects could help restore forest health was also used as a basis for short-cutting environmental reviews for logging projects, possibly resulting in negative long-term environmental impacts in forests.

But forest researchers in California and Montana said there isn’t much monitoring to assess the effectiveness of logging, and that failures often aren’t reported, probably because they don’t fit the popular narrative. Continue reading

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