Credit: Jón Helgi Jónsson

Find out what’s happened this past week in the world of forestry!

Research ecologist Paul Hessburg speaks on why wildfires have gotten worse over the past few decades, and offers what may seem like a counterintuitive solution: prescribed burns, and management of some wildfires, rather than simply extinguishing every single one.

Green Forest Works, a West Virginia-based nonprofit and American Forests conservation partner, is working to rehabilitate forests on lands that have first been devastated by coal mining, then left abandoned. The process involves removing non-native vegetation, then altering the soil to allow native saplings to regrow, thus restoring the red spruce population.

Pennsylvania’s forests are under threat by fragmentation, as private lands are increasingly segmented and partitioned, breaking off and clearing native woodlands piece by piece. The Center for Private Forests has tracked the number of woodland owners as increasingly growing, but there’s no correlating growth between woodland owners and total forest owned. This means forests are gradually being parceled off, putting them at more risk for mismanagement or threats from invasive species.

New research from Virginia Tech has found there is a strong correlation between Amazonian tropical forest loss and a decline in freshwater fish population. It’s hypothesized that forests provide alternative environments to many freshwater fish during floods and periods of high rainfall, where there are places to forage for food, hide and nurse young. Therefore a decrease in forests results in a loss of alternative habitat for many Amazonian fish.

Selective commercial fishing of larger species can have dire environmental effects, according to a new study examining fish size and seed dispersal in the Amazon. Large members of fish species are often the healthiest, and among the most prolific eaters, gobbling up fruit along the river, then dispersing it potentially miles away from its source. Larger fish are better at seed dispersal, as they have larger mouths and are therefore less likely to chew up seeds, rendering them useless for trees.

A new study published in the journal Ecology Letters has found that the total forest regrowth in areas affected by wildfires has seen a marked decline from 1985 to 2015. Prior to 2000, only 15 percent of sites failed to reproduce with seedlings, contrasted with post-2000, when almost one-third of all measured sites saw no growth. Lack of regrowth seemed to be correlated with lower elevation, sites that have been growing warmer and drier over time. The researchers hypothesize that due to climate change, wildfires could irreparably damage some forests incapable of growing back.