Forest Digest — Week of January 26, 2015

by Loose Leaf Team

Get ready to end this month in style! See what’s making tree headlings with the latest Forest Digest!

  • “Melbourne’s trees bombarded with emailed love letters”The Guardian
    If only trees could talk! Well, in Melbourne, Australia, they can email! As part of a community awareness initiative, the city assigned each of its 70,000 trees with an identification number, which allows citizens to email it. The city found that instead of simply reporting damage to a particular tree, people were sending arbor love letters.
Monarchs resting in a pine tree, before they continue their journey down to Mexico.

Thanks to Global ReLeaf’s work in Mexico, these monarchs are able to rest in a pine tree, before they continue their journey. Photo Credit: faria!/flickr

  • “Monarch butterfly population makes a modest rebound”San Francisco Chronicle
    Monarch butterflies sure know how to travel! They migrate from Canada to Mexico every winter to nest pine and fir trees. Last year, the monarch population experienced record lows and only covered 1.65 acres of forests—the smallest area in over 20 years. However, despite scientists’ findings that the monarch population rebounded by 69 percent in 2014, these orange- and black beauties are still in danger because of illegal logging in Mexico and climate change.
  • “Carbon accumulation by Southeastern forests may slow”Phys.org
    In a recent study by U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, scientists John Coulston, David Wear and Jim Vose found that fire, disease, cutting and land-use changes all slow the rate of carbon accumulation in forests in the southeastern U.S. While many trees displayed small rate changes when faced with natural disturbances, land-use changes were found to play a more significant role.
  • “What is carbon insetting?”Mother Nature Network
    You’ve heard of carbon offsetting, but what about carbon insetting? The newest carbon reduction, this business method is taking aim at reducing a business’ own supply chain by investing in sustainable activities within the company’s scope.

Forest Digest — Week of January 19, 2015

by Loose Leaf Team

Kick off the weekend right! Dive into the latest Forest Digest, and catch up on all your tree related news.

  • “Things Are Not Looking Good for California’s Big Trees”Think Progress
    Forest surveys from the 1920s and ‘30s show that California’s stands of large trees have changed dramatically. Drought, disease and land-use changes have led to a 50 percent decline in the 46,000-square-mile surveyed area.
  • “High-tech eyes on the forest seek to help curb climate change”FORESTS news
    A team of scientists the Center for International Forestry Research, the University of Wangeningen and the University of Göttingen are testing new gear in Kalimantan, Indonesia that will help monitor forests and carbon intake in area prone to deforestation. The new state of the art gear includes remote sensing, unmanned aerial vehicles and spectrometry readers.
A Wind Tree in Paris' Place de la Concorde is being used to power street lamps.

A Wind Tree in Paris’ Place de la Concorde is being used to power street lamps. Photo credit: New Wind.

  • “A Carbon Offset Market for Trees”The New York Times
    In this column, scientists from Columbia University and the City University of New York state that avoided emissions from intact tropical forests could become a game changer in the carbon offset market. The Rainforest Standard is now undergoing testing in South America to protect a 1.6-million-acre forest.

GR25: Longleaf pine in 2014

by Megan Higgs

Happy New Year! In 2014, amidst numerous despondent stories of Ebola, MH370 and more, American Forests worked to instill resiliency for a species that has long undergone devastation of its own: the longleaf pine.

Longleaf pine forests now span only three percent of their historic range, which extended from eastern Texas to southern Virginia.

Longleaf pine forests now span only three percent of their historic range, which extended from eastern Texas to southern Virginia. Photo credit: ChrisM.

If you live in the southern U.S. or follow American Forests, you know the story all too well. The longleaf pine, once covering an expansive 90 million acres, currently covers less than three percent of its historic range. An indigenous, endangered species that extends from eastern Texas to southeast Virginia, the longleaf pine was once thought to be an incredibly abundant resource and, as such, was widely harvested to produce timber for ships.

As longleaf pine can grow for up to 150 years to reach their full potential height — can we have a round of applause for those that just escaped “puberty” after germinating during the Civil War? — many of the depleted longleaf pine forests were regrown with faster-growing loblolly pine and other species that could provide quicker economic and supposedly ecological benefits. However, one tree does not always equal another in every ecosystem — longleaf pine trees are well-known for being extraordinary carbon sinks. Combined with their knack for withstanding extreme drought, pests, pollution and wildfire, the species plays an incredibly important role in mitigating the effects of climate change on the region.

There are more than a few animals that specifically call longleaf pine forests home, including the gopher tortoise — the only native tortoise found east of the Mississippi river — which forages for food and digs burrows that are eventually used as shelter for more 350 other species. Other endangered species include the red cockaded woodpecker, flatwoods salamander, and indigo snakes. In fact, nearly two-thirds of threatened or endangered wildlife species in the southeastern U.S. rely on or are associated with longleaf pine forests.

What to do?

For starters, since 1992, American Forests Global ReLeaf has planted more than 4.5 million longleaf pines. In 2014, American Forests continued the legacy of restoring this vital species in our Paulding Wildlife Management Area project in Georgia. In an area that is enjoyed extensively for outdoor recreation by those escaping city life in the Atlanta metro area, American Forests and local partner Longleaf Alliance planted 25,000 endangered Longleaf pine to restore these forests to their original natural splendor. In addition to enhanced recreation, these trees provided integral habitat for the dozens of at-risk and rare species that call longleaf forests home.

The success of this project and the innumerable benefits that longleaf ecosystems provide carried on into American Forests’ work in 2015, as we are continuing our longleaf restoration efforts by planting 103,000 total trees in our Tyndall Air Force Base and Box R Wildlife Management projects in Florida.


On our way to 50 million trees!

by Christopher Horn

This year, we will partner with local organizations to plant more than 1.7 million trees in 35 projects in 19 U.S. states and seven countries around the world.

Since its inception 25 years ago, American Forests’ Global ReLeaf program has completed more than 1,000 projects, planting nearly 50 million trees in all 50 U.S. states and 45 countries around the world. These projects are completed in cooperation with local nonprofits, businesses and government agencies, and help reforest areas damaged by wildfire, disease, deforestation, natural disasters and more.

Some of the 2015 projects include:

Greenbrier River in West Virginia. Photo Credit: Phil Virgo

Greenbrier River in West Virginia. Photo Credit: Phil Virgo

  • Along West Virginia’s Greenbrier River in Monongahela National Forest, American Forests is planting more than 3,000 red spruce and other species to improve the health of the riparian ecosystem. A long history of logging and farming has reduced shade and elevated water temperature to near lethal limits for brook trout. The project will restore cool stream temperatures and provide much-needed cover for the trout, hellbender salamanders and other sensitive aquatic species.
  • In Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest, American Forests is planting more than 350,000 ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir to restore an ecosystem affected by the 2012 Pole Creek Fire, which burned more than 10,000 acres, leaving little or no surviving forest cover. This project will control erosion, maintain wildlife habitat and restore a highly utilized recreational area. The project will also work with Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC), an alternative high school program that provides opportunities for youth to learn and work in the outdoors while restoring and caring for our forests.
  • American Forests will plant 106,000 ponderosa pines in Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest to help restore an area that was damaged by wildfire and is widely used for wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation. The rehabilitation project will help establish forest cover, provide wildlife habitat and, over time, protect soils and watersheds. The planting area is important for the northern goshawk, a species whose habitat in the American Southwest is shrinking, as well as numerous bird species, game species such as mule deer and a variety of small mammals.
  • In the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Vermont, American Forests is planting 500 red maple, green ash and sugar maple to improve the health of a riparian ecosystem. Because of past tree removal, annual floods have been causing erosion and downstream sedimentation. Improved overall water quality will benefit aquatic life, including five species of mussels listed as threatened and endangered. The planting will also enhance habitat along the Missisquoi River corridor for migratory bird species such as the warbling vireo, Baltimore oriole, yellowthroat, yellow warbler and swamp sparrow.
  • For American Forests’ first project in Madagascar, we are planting 9,000 trees in the Beanka Forest to connect fragmented wildlife habitat and provide economic opportunities to the local community, reducing reliance on the natural forest. More than 97 percent of Madagascar’s dry deciduous forests have been destroyed because of slash-and-burn agricultural practices, logging and charcoal production, with little chance to regenerate on their own. Of the approximately 250,000 species on the island, between 70 and 80 percent are estimated to be endemic — found nowhere else in the world. These include unique mammals such as the tenrec, fossa and the island’s unofficial mascots — the lemurs.

Global ReLeaf’s Silver Anniversary

To commemorate the program’s 25th birthday, American Forests will publish bi-weekly posts over the course of 2015 on the organization’s blog, Loose Leaf, highlighting one or more projects from each year of the program since it began in 1990.


Forest Digest — Week of January 5, 2015

by Loose Leaf Team

We’re kicking off the New Year right with our first Forest Digest of 2015! Here’s what’s been going on in the world of forests:

  • “Tropical Forests Gulp CO2, Slowing Climate Change
    Discovery News

    2014 was the hottest year on record, but a new study shows that tropical rainforests are absorbing far more greenhouse gases than scientists estimated. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimate that tropical forests annually absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion metric tons.
  • “Indonesian indigenous groups look to tourists to protect forests”Reuters
    An Indonesian NGO is working with six indigenous communities to encourage foreign tourism in ancestral forests, an attempt to not only slow the advance of logging operations and palm oil plantations, but also ease poverty, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and diversify from traditional forest-based incomes such as weaving.

25 years of Global ReLeaf

by Jami Westerhold

While the world watched the space shuttle Discovery place the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit 25 years ago, American Forests was also launching a stellar program: Global ReLeaf.

Though we had dipped our toe in the water of forest reforestation before 1990, this was the first year we committed to supporting multiple large-scale, on-the-ground projects. Since its inaugural year, American Forests’ Global ReLeaf program has blossomed into what is now our keystone program, planting in all 50 states and 44 counties.

In 2009, Global ReLeaf was in Mississippi as part of the plan to restore canopy lost during Hurricane Katrina.

In 2009, Global ReLeaf was in Mississippi as part of the plan to restore canopy lost during Hurricane Katrina.

To commemorate Global ReLeaf’s 25th anniversary, we will post bi-weekly on Loose Leaf over the course of 2015 to highlight at least one project from each year of the program’s history. These posts will let us — and, more importantly, you — (re)discover how American Forests has worked with local partners to reforest areas, from near your backyard to the other side of the world. From our first project restoring jack pine forests for endangered Kirtland’s warblers to our restoration activities in areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina, American Forests has planted nearly 50 million trees.

Though the projects differ each year, there are common themes among American Forests’ comprehensive work to protect and restore the most damaged ecosystems. Whether damaged by fire, development, or other causes, none of these lands are expected to naturally regenerate at the pace needed, if ever. American Forests always ensures native species are used and all elements are considered. Though our lives are dependent on forests — more than half of drinking water in the U.S. originates in forests! — their importance is much broader, providing habitat for wildlife and reducing the rate of climate change.

In addition to our 25 years of Global ReLeaf, we will be announcing our 2015 projects, so keep a look out. Sneak peak: American Forests will be planting in a country — our 45th! — we’ve never planted in before: Madagascar.

Stay tuned as we continue our journey revisiting what American Forests has accomplished through the history of our Global ReLeaf program.


Trees and Pests: A different pathway

by Loose Leaf Contributor

By Faith Campbell, Emeritus environmental advocate and tree-pest expert

My previous blogs examined the risk to American forests from insects introduced by traveling on crates, pallets and other forms of wood packaging material (WPM). A second pathway for the introduction of tree-killing insects and disease pathogens is imports of live plants. Close to two-thirds of 91 pests now ravaging our wildland and urban forests probably entered on live plants.1

The spread of white pine blister rust in the U.S. and Canada from 1920 to present.

The spread of white pine blister rust in the U.S. and Canada from 1920 to present. Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy.

While many of these pests entered the U.S. before our government adopted plant pest statutes, introductions have continued in more recent years.

Among the trees severely depleted by these insects and diseases are American chestnut, whitebark pine and other high-elevation five-needle pines, Port-Orford-cedar, butternut, eastern and Carolina hemlocks, Fraser fir, and cycads found on Guam. Sudden oak death has killed well over a million trees, especially tanoaks, but also coast live oaks, California black oaks, canyon live oaks and Shreve’s oaks.

The risk that new insects or pests will be introduced on imported plants continues. While no one has conducted a thorough analysis to determine what proportion of imported plants is carrying a pest, in one study that looked at some of the data, approximately 12 percent of incoming living plant shipments had reportable pests. This translates to a pest “approach rate” more than 100 times greater than that for WPM.2

The aftermath of a hemlock woolly adelgid infestation.

The aftermath of a hemlock woolly adelgid infestation. Photo credit: Tom Coleman, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

Americans import probably 3 to 4 billion plants per year. These plants come in a wide variety of types — ranging from embryonic tissues that were cultured in test tubes to plant bulbs to whole plants. The risk of pest introduction is higher for larger plants, and those that bear roots, bark, buds or even leaves.

One trend is encouraging: A growing proportion of plant imports are cuttings and slips, which are less likely to be transporting pests. In recent years, the U.S. imported more than 75 million cuttings, while another 154 million bulbs are imported.3 Bulb imports can carry pests that attack other bulb plants, but are unlikely to carry pests that threaten trees and shrubs.

Still, we imported nearly 29 million shrubs and trees — the types of plants most likely to transport pests that could attack our trees.

Stay tuned as I go more in-depth about plant imports and their role in tree pest and pathogen outbreaks in the U.S.


1Liebhold, A.M., E.G. Brockerhoff, L.J. Garrett, J.L. Parke, and K.O. Britton. 2012. Live plant imports: the major pathway for forest insect and pathogen invasions of the US. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10(3): 135-143. Accessed December 7, 2012.
2Liebhold, A.M., E.G. Brockerhoff, L.J. Garrett, J.L. Parke, and K.O. Britton. 2012. Live plant imports: the major pathway for forest insect and pathogen invasions of the US. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10(3): 135-143. Accessed December 7, 2012.
3Data on import volumes of particular types of plants were provided by Manuel Colunga.


Up close and personal: Tree climbing

by Loose Leaf Team

By Lea Sloan, Vice President of Communications

When I was invited to get a lesson in how to climb a tree with ropes by Peter and Patty Jenkins, husband and wife partners in Tree Climbers International (TCI), based in Atlanta, my adventurous side instantly said “YES!” But in the back of my mind I wondered whether I would freak out after I got 15 or 20 feet off the ground!

A recent business trip to Atlanta gave me the chance to find out. The setting was a magnificent willow oak in a park in a nearby town. Peter walked me through the basics: thick round nylon line, some very cool knots, adapted from Peter’s early days as a rock climber, a “saddle” that you sit on while hoisting yourself up, gloves and a helmet — so you don’t get bonked a branch or anything else dislodged by the ropes above you.

Peter tossed the throw-weight with a feeder line over a chosen fork in a branch about seven stories up with impressive ease, and pulled the soft nylon line up and over the leather sheath that guards the branch. The system for climbing is easy — standing in the rope stirrups (loops) made with a short attached line, and sliding the “magic knot” (Blake’s Hitch) up the main line, which pulls the saddle up. With a couple of practice stand-and-slides, I was on my way up.

American Forests' VP of Communications, Lea Sloan, about 20 feet up in a tree's canopy.Twenty feet up, I paused to rotate around and look. I felt anchored by the big tree, and calmly in its spell. Patty did look smaller, sitting at the picnic table below, but I felt no trace of fear. I kept on going, to within ten feet or so of the rope apex. It felt like the most natural thing in the world.

Coming down was effortless — an easily controlled slide down, slipping the Blake’s Hitch down the rope leader.

Peter, a certified arborist, started TCI in 1983. Customers used to tell him that it looked like he was having fun (he was) — and it sparked the idea for TCI. Decades later, with Patty on board as business and marketing chief, TCI has taught many thousands of people from all over the world, all ages (3 – 83) and walks of life, including professional arborists, how to climb trees safely and without harming the tree (no leg spikes or abrasive ropes). And with a track record of absolutely no injuries in more than 30 years in business — no people hurt either.

I’m hooked. Can’t wait to go bigger. I’d love to get into the canopy of a redwood or Douglas-fir — and spend the night in a hammock. The DNA from the tree creatures we’re all descended from must be alive and well in my cells, because I felt completely at home in that tree.


Forest Digest — Week of December 15

by Christopher Horn

It’s the last Forest Digest of 2014! With some of our staff out over the next few weeks, we won’t be reporting on the forestry news from around the world until Jan. 9!

  • “Report suggests forest-cutting can have an immediate effect on climate”The Washington Post
    Researchers say in a new report released this week that cutting down forests like the Amazon not only releases carbon — stored by the trees — into the atmosphere, but directly and more immediately affects the climate, from changes in rainfall patterns to rising temperatures. The report also suggests that omplete deforestation of the Amazon would alter rainfall in the much of the United States.
  • “U.S. Forest Service considers knocking back old-growth forests to benefit wildlife”The Times-Picayune
    THe U.S. Forest Service is considering changing management practices to replace old-growth stands of forest with younger stands in an effort to help populations of wildlife. According to Forest Service data, wildlife species that depend on young forests have experienced population declines over the last two decades in western North Carolina’s Nantahala and Pisgah national forests.
  • “Yurok tribe hopes California’s cap-and-trade can save a way of life”Los Angeles Times
    Forestry crews from the Yurok tribe, California’s largest Native American tribe, lead an inventory of their lands, in hopes of making money through the state’s cap-and-trade program. Rather than use their trees for timber harvest, the Yurok can manage their forests for carbon storage, selling credits to oil companies and other businesses that must reduce emissions.

Forest Digest — Week of December 1

by Loose Leaf Team

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.
  • “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!