Forests: New CU-Boulder study shows nuances in tree-killing pine beetle epidemic

Lodgepole pines killed by beetles stand silhoutted against the evening sky in Summit County, Colorado.

Lodgepole pines killed by beetles stand silhoutted against the evening sky in Summit County, Colorado.

Smooth-barked trees better able to repel insects

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Lodgepole and ponderosa pines with smoother bark may be better at repelling tree-killing bugs, according to Boulder-based researchers with the University of Colorado.

The new findings may help forest managers as they plan logging projects, especially in areas where there is a need to protect high-value trees — in developed recreation areas or on private property.

The study was published online in the journal Functional Ecology. While the current pine beetle epidemic has slowed dramatically in many areas, it wiped out millions of trees across 3.4 million acres since 1996. Continue reading

Climate talks yield forest deal, little else

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‘We can’t solve climate change without saving our forests …’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Even with the threat of runaway global warming becoming evermore real due to the spiraling increase in greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, delegates at the recent Warsaw climate talks made little progress.

But there was one bright spot, according to environmental advocates observing the talks. Recognizing the importance of forests as natural carbon sinks, negoiators did agree on a comprehensive set of policies to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). Continue reading

Canadian researchers seek effective pine beetle bait

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Beetle-killed lodgepole pines in Summit County, Colorado.

Tracking pheromones may help resource managers slow the spread of infestation

By Summit Voice

*Read extensive coverage of mountain pine beetle and fores health at this Summit Voice link

FRISCO — While the mountain pine beetle epidemic has waned in most Colorado forests, the tiny insects are still killing huge swaths of trees in Canada, where researchers say they may be close finding an effective bait.

The University of Alberta scientists  say their results may enable forest managers to get ahead of the destructive spread of mountain pine beetle, which is now killing not only lodgepole pine forests, but jack pine. Continue reading

Climate: Can forests heal themselves from drought?

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California’s redwood forests recycle ocean fog to create their own microclimate. bberwyn photo.

Amazon rainforest may be more resilient than previously believed

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — As one of the Earth’s big lungs, the fate of the Amazon rainforest in the face of global warming is a critical climate question. New research suggests that, with strong conservation measures in place, the rainforest may be more able to cope with dry conditions than projected by other studies.

Many climate models over-predict the water stress plants feel during the dry season because they don’t take into account the moisture that the forest itself can recycle in times of drought. In this study, published in the Journal of Climate, the researchers removed unrealistic water stress from their model and found that the moisture that is recycled by the forest is sufficient to reduce the intensity of drought conditions. Continue reading

Scientists caution against too much post-fire logging

Burned areas a critical piece of overall forest health

Post-fire landscapes are important in the big picture of long-term forest health. bberwyn photo.

Post-fire landscapes are important in the big picture of forest health. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With political momentum growing in support of more logging, a group of leading scientists is trying to counterbalance the forest crisis mythology that has developed in the past few years. That mythology has no basis in science and is promulgated to support a political agenda.

In an open letter to the U.S. Congress, the scientists asked Congress show restraint in speeding up logging in the wake of this year’s wildfires, most notably the Rim fire in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park.

It’s important to recognize that the scientists are not saying that there should neve be any logging, anywhere. Rather, the decisions need to be made in a measured way, considering all the environmental implications and the role that burned areas have in the bigger picture of long-term forest health. Continue reading

Study shows how global warming could favor invasive shrubs over native forest trees

Timing is everything …

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How will forests respond to global warming? bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Global warming is likely to play out in some unexpected ways, but pattern that’s emerging suggests that changed conditions will favor invasive plants over long-time native species.

New research from the Technische Universität München confirms that trend, suggesting that invasive herbs and shrubs could take advantage of warmer winters in perhaps unexpected ways.

“Contrary to previous assumptions, the increasing length of the day in spring plays no big role in the timing of budding. An ample ‘cold sleep’ is what plants need in order to wake up on time in the spring,” said lead author Julia Laube, describing the study, which investigated 36 tree and shrub species. Continue reading

Forests: Does salvage logging in beetle-killed forests make economic sense for the Forest Service?

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Dead lodgepoles have became a common sight in Colorado during the past few years, and a new study confirms that the Forest Service loses money on many salvage logging projects.

Study shows that strong timber markets make all the difference

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new Forest Service study confirms the conventional wisdom that, under current market conditions, salvage of beetle-killed timber in Colorado is not good for the agency’s bottom line.

The researchers evaluated potential potential revenues from harvesting standing timber killed by mountain pine beetle across the western United States. Positive net revenues are possible in regions with strong timber markets, including along the West Coast and in the northern Rockies.

The central Rocky Mountain states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming — which have the largest volume of standing dead timber — would not generate positive net revenues by salvaging beetle-killed timber, the study concluded. In Colorado, there have been efforts to create more markets for beetle-killed wood, but there doesn’t yet seem to be a critical mass of demand.

The study did not examine other factors that might influence land management decisions, such as fire risk reduction, improvement in stand conditions, or jobs. Continue reading

Study: Drought the prime driver of spruce beetle outbreak

Long-term climate shifts linked with historic spruce beetle episodes in Colorado

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A Colorado spruce forest near Shrine Pass, Colorado.

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Spruce beetles are spreading rapidly and killing trees in the southern Rockies.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The current spruce beetle outbreak in Colorado’s high country has the potential to grow larger in scope than the recent mountain pine beetle epidemic that killed mature lodgepole pines across millions of acres.

And the trigger of for the spruce beetles is drought that’s linked with long-term changes in sea-surface temperatures in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, a trend that is expected to continue for decades, according to a new study by scientists with the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The new study is important because it shows that drought is a better predictor of spruce beetle outbreaks in northern Colorado than temperature alone, said Sarah Hart, a CU-Boulder doctoral student in geography. Continue reading

Global forest cover on a steady downward trend

Wheat field in Upper Austria

A wheat field in Upper Austria ripens under a summer sun.

Decline expected to continue for centuries, based on increased demand for agricultural land

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Population growth and increased demand for agricultural land means forest will continue to shrink globally during the next couple of centuries before stabilizing at a lower level.

Just since 1990, about 170 million acres of forest have been lost, mainly in developing countries, according to a new study led by researchers with the University of Guelph.

The study is based on an analysis of global forest trends, used to develop a mathematical model showing future land use changes. The most likely model shows forests will decline from covering 30 per cent of Earth’s land surface today to 22 per cent within the next two centuries. Continue reading

Fragmented forests lead to ‘ecological armaggedon’

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When it comes to forest habitat, bigger is better.

Population isolation, invasive species decimate native species in forest islands

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Small islands of forest don’t offer much in the way of protection for wildlife, according to a new study showing rapid extinction of species in habitat fragmented by development of a large reservoir in Thailand.

The findings suggest that species living in rainforest fragments could be far more likely to disappear than was previously thought. In the 20 year study, researchers witnessed the near-complete extinction of native small mammals.

“It was like ecological Armageddon,” said Luke Gibson from the National University of Singapore, who led the study, published in the journal Science. “Nobody imagined we’d see such catastrophic local extinctions.” Continue reading

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