Credit: Adam Roades

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

In Florida, rising sea levels disrupt the delicate salinity balance found among many coastal forests. Among coastal wetlands, there is often a careful balance of fresh and saltwater, resulting in an ideal mixture that many tree groves become acclimated to. As sea levels rise, the ratio of seawater to freshwater tips, resulting in higher levels of salinity that kill coastal trees, resulting in “ghost forests.”

An exploration of how deforestation due to wildfire can result in flash-flooding and erosion of the land. As root systems decay, soil rapidly erodes under water pressure, resulting in “braided streams.”

A new study by The Economist identifies the trend of forests naturally increasing in size among affluent nations. It’s theorized that this growth is due to a rise in food importation, leading to land previously used for agriculture being converted to natural woodland. Paired with regulations and taxation policy that encourages landowners to grow trees, this had led to a growth in forest cover among the world’s wealthier countries.

A Canadian research agency is looking towards an unorthodox ally in the fight against the invasive emerald ash borer: fungi. A specific Canadian fungus has been submitted for approval at the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency. The fungus would be set in traps, infecting the ash borer when it came in contact. Eighty percent of ash borers infected with the fungus die, but there is a five-day incubation period where the insect is able to spread and infect its peers. The researchers hope the fungus will become a vital tool in the fight to save ash trees against the invasive insect.

Wandering through the forests of Guyana, herpetologist Andrew Snyder was able to catch a glimpse of a previously-unseen type of tarantula. It’s unclear the specific species or subspecies of spider the arachnid belongs to, but what makes the spider unique is its brilliant blue color and tendency to occupy a habitat inside a tree stump, as opposed to making a home underground or on the outside of trees.

New research is able to use satellite data to measure the “thirstiness” of crops and plants, allowing researchers to study the relationship between precipitation and water usage. By measuring the movement of trees using accelerometers, combined with data on precipitation, an estimation is able to be made of the water usage of the tree. It’s hoped that this method will allow researchers to observe water stress more efficiently in hard-to-reach areas.

With geotagging and smartphone usage, the Grove of Titans in California’s Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is being overwhelmed with visitors. Previously, the location of the grove of eight redwoods was a well-kept secret, with hikers having to follow a series of clues left by tree hunters. However, in 2011 someone uploaded the location of the grove online, and the number of visitors skyrocketed to approximately 50 a day. By bushwhacking through forest and trampling bases of trees, irreparable damage is being done to the ecosystem. A nonprofit paired with the state park is trying to crowdfund money for an elevated walkway, but they have only raised $14,000 out of their $1.4 million goal.

A disruption in the delicate balance of the underwater ecosystem off the coast of California has resulted in the collapse of the abalone population. The giant sea snails are slowly being starved out as kelp forests around the area dwindle. Several years ago, sea stars were struck by a disease, wiping out most of the population. The sea stars’ main diet subsists of purple sea urchins, and without predators to keep them in check the urchin population exploded. Urchins mainly feed on seaweed and kelp, wiping out most of the kelp forests. This ecological collapse has had the largest effect on the abalone population, with researchers describing it as a population in “freefall” with no end in sight.