We hope you had a happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends! Even if you’re still stuffed from the turkey — or Tofurky for our vegetarians out there — we have a healthy helping of the latest forest news, so check out this week’s Forest Digest:
- “In a Queens Forest, Compiling a Picture of Urban Ecology” — The New York Times
In Alley Pond Park in Queens, N.Y., there is a variety of instruments — a webcam and a wind vane, humidity and temperature sensors, rain gauges and instruments to measure solar radiation — all attached to a hardy oak tree. This is part of the U.S. Forest Service’s new “smart forest” initiative, in which data is collected from selected woodlands to help scientists manage landscapes in a changing climate. Dr. Lindsey Rustad, a research ecologist with the Forest Service and co-director of the USDA’s Northeast Climate Hub, says “we know relatively little about what’s going on in these forest ecosystems. Eighty percent of the population lives in urban areas, so understanding urban forest ecology is critical.”
- “Mountain beetle threatens Minnesota’s pine forests” — Minnesota Public Radio
Over the past couple decades, mountain pine beetles have devoured 45 million acres of pine trees in western North America — the world’s largest forest insect outbreak in recorded history. Now the beetles are headed east, and Minnesota’s majestic pines may be threatened. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is proposing a quarantine in hopes of keeping the beetles at bay and protecting the state’s nearly 200 million pine trees.
- “Still a burning issue: Forest thinning plan almost done” — The Arizona Republic
The Forest Service is nearing completion of a plan for the first phase of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI). It aims to use mechanical thinning, prescribed fires and other techniques to prevent catastrophic burning across 2.4 million acres of the Kaibab, Coconino, Tonto, and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests. This is being done to address the massive wildfires that have destroyed more than half a million acres in northern Arizona’s ponderosa-pine forests.
- “New Research on Smart Phone Training for Citizen Scientists” — Alliance for Community Trees
New research funded by Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry shows that smartphone-based training is as effective as in-person training in helping citizen scientists to recognize invasive plants. These results show potential to help grow the field of citizen science, as University of Massachusetts researchers noted app-based video training provided comparable — but less expensive — results to in-person delivery in the context of invasive plant identification.
- “Deforestation may be at root of Brazil drought” — Associated Press
In a new study, scientists say decades of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has created drought conditions in southeastern Brazil, home to 40 percent of the country’s population. The cutting of trees in the Amazon is hindering the rainforest’s ability to absorb carbon from the air and get water through tree roots to supply vast “sky rivers,” which generate more than two-thirds of the rainfall in southeastern Brazil.
- “Grasshoppers signal slow recovery of post-agricultural woodlands, study finds” — University of Wisconsin-Madison
Researchers Philip Hahn and John Orrock used grasshoppers found in South Carolina longleaf pine forests as indicators of the recovery success of woodlands on former agriculture tracts of land.
- “Cut down your own Christmas tree” — KRDO – Colorado Springs
The Forest Service has a deal — for only $10, you can get a permit to cut down your own tree in part of the Pike National Forest. Why? It’s beneficial to the forests. “We do this to help reduce the fuel load of the trees that are on the forest land,” Scott Steiner of the Forest Service said. Check your local Forest Service office to see if this is offered at your district!