Category: forests

Massive forest death continues in California

Latest survey tallies more than 100 milion dead trees

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A stand of pine-beetle killed lodgepole pines on the White River National Forest. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

California’s long-term drought has claimed another 36 million trees, the U.S. Forest Service said this week, announcing the results of a new aerial survey. Since 2010, more than 100 million trees have died across 7.7 million acres, the agency said.

The die-off intensified in 2016, after four years of drought,  with mortality increasing 100 percent. Millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years. Forest Service leaders once again emphasized that their ability to address safety issues linked with dead trees has been severely hampered by climate change and limited resources.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said a broken budget for the Forest Service sees an increasing amount of resources going to firefighting while less is invested in restoration and forest health.  Continue reading “Massive forest death continues in California”

Sunday set: Wienerwald

The lungs of a city …

All mountain ranges have to end somewhere, and for the Alps, the eastern terminus is the Wienerwald, a chain of rolling, low-slung hills on the outskirts of Vienna that drop down to the Danube Basin along a tectonic escarpment marked by a series of hot- and cold-water springs. It’s a geological and biological transition zone, where the rather moist and cool climate of northwestern Europe gives way to the drier regime of the Pannonian Basin to the southeast, including the Hungarian Puszta. Continue reading “Sunday set: Wienerwald”

How will boreal forests respond to global warming?

New satellite data helps track photosynthesis in evergreens

How will forests respond to global warming? @bberwyn photo.
An aerial photo of forests in western Colorado. New satellite data will help show how evergreen forests are responding to climate change. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Despite the huge importance of forests in the global carbon cycle, researchers still aren’t exactly certain how they will respond to climate change. But that could soon change thanks to satellite sensors that can track photosynthesis in evergreen forests by monitoring slight color shifts.

The new information could help assess the health of northern forests over time, showing how they are responding to global warming. Photosynthesis is easy to track in deciduous trees — when leaves bud or turn yellow and fall off. But until recently, it had been impossible to detect in evergreen conifers on a large scale. Continue reading “How will boreal forests respond to global warming?”

The lungs of the Earth

Study eyes forest ecosystem tipping points that can drive climate change

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The tipping point of forest ecosystems can, in turn, drive climate change by altering the global carbon cycle. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Tropical forests are the Earth’s lungs, helping drive global respiration and transpiration – key steps in the climate cycle. That’s been the case for millennia, according to a University of California, Davis-led study that tracked atmospheric CO2 levels from 330 to 260 million years ago by examining fossilized leaves and soil-formed minerals.

The last time Earth experienced both ice sheets and carbon dioxide levels within the range predicted for this century was a period of major sea level rise, melting ice sheets and upheaval of tropical forests, where dramatically dynamic forest regeneration cycles were a big factor in driving the climate between warmer and cooler phases. Continue reading “The lungs of the Earth”

Sunday Set: Along the Danube

Dunkelsteinerwald

Most travelers have heard of the Wachau region. The fertile hillsides along the Danube River have long been designated as a World Heritage region for its cultural and natural landscapes. But just across the river is another slice of forest, the Dunkelsteinerwald, that’s not quite as famous but just as beautiful. On a mid-October weekend, we hiked from the pilgrimage town of Maria Langegg up the restored Aggstein Castle, which was built in the 12th century. Like many others  along the Danube, the castle was an outpost for charging toll to passing ships, a payment made in exchange for maintaining the paths along the shore that were used to tow ships upstream. But the area was inhabited long before that, with signs of civilization dating back to the Celtic era — and long before. Just across the river, construction workers in 1908 unearthed the famed Venus of Willendorf, a prehistoric fertility figurine dating back to about 25,000 BC.

Somebody is trying to take away your public lands

Congress once again toys with extremist agenda

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GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate continue to pursue extremist anti-public lands legislation. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Congress may not be able to get it together to deal with issues like crumbling infrastructure or deadly opiate epidemics, but when it comes to trying to strip Americans of their unique public lands heritage, there’s no shortage of legislation.

The Center for Biological Diversity is warming there are four bills pending in the House and Senate natural resource committees that could affect public lands — and not in a good way. One of the measures would block the creation of new national monuments and parks, while others could enable the transfer of federally managed public lands to state governments. Continue reading “Somebody is trying to take away your public lands”

Climate change may be factor in spread of tree fungus

Signs of hope? A single Douglas-fir grows at the base of the clearcut area along Swan Mountain Road. It'll be interesting to watch the area during the next few years to see how it regenerates.
Global warming may be promoting growth of a tree-damaging fungus in the Pacific Northwest. @bberwyn photo.

Commercially valuable tree stands take hit in Pacific Northwest

Staff Report

Global warming may be a factor in the spread of a fungus affecting valuable Douglas fir forests in the Pacific Northwest. Needle cast disease has recently spread across 590,000 acres in Oregon,  quadrupling since the start of surveys in 1996. The annual economic loss has been estimated at $128 million.

“The correlation between disease severity and climate factors, such as spring moisture and warm winter temperatures, raises the question of a link between disease expansion and climate change,” said  researcher Gabriela Ritokova. “Those factors, in combination with lots of Douglas fir and with large springtime fungal spore production, have us where we are now.” Continue reading “Climate change may be factor in spread of tree fungus”