Credit: Lip Kee, used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Find out the latest in forest news!

Researchers in Sequoia National Park have been studying trees for decades, trying to establish a pattern on what causes certain redwoods to die and others to survive. Since 1982, scientists have studied pre-marked plots containing 30,000 trees, marking their conditions every year, measuring their diameter every five years and conducting autopsies when they die. “It’s a detective game,” says U.S. Geological Survey Ecologist Nate Stephenson. Researchers believe the data being collected will prove invaluable, and changing global conditions create uncertain futures for many forests.

A new study from the University of Washington, the University of California, Davis and the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station suggests that protecting the habitat of the spotted owl may be much easier than previously thought. For the past 25 years, the strategy surrounding habitat management has focused on preserving dense upper canopy cover, which put forests at a much higher risk for wildfire decimation. However, using new technology, researchers were able to determine that it is actually only the canopy cover of tall trees that are required, rather than total canopy cover. This will allow for better forestry management that can benefit both spotted owls and the trees they inhabit.

New research on the density of tropical forests has concluded that they are releasing more carbon dioxide (CO2) than they are absorbing, rather than the opposite, as was previously thought. A new study found that previous models of tropical forests overestimated the density of trees, mostly because partial logging by humans and forest degradation had worn away many trees, but left the canopy intact, making satellite measurements inaccurate. Trees absorb CO2, but fallen and dead trees also release it into the atmosphere. This new study measured smaller-scale tree loss, and has found that tropical forests are now a net source of carbon due to human activity.

After Hurricane Irma swept through South Florida, arborists discovered two new cracks in the 45-foot-tall champion gumbo limbo (Bursera sumaruba), located in De Soto National Memorial, Fla. The tree has been certified as an American Forests Champion Tree since 2007, meaning it is the largest-known tree of its kind in the country. The 80-year-old tree did not lose any limbs, but no amount of damage is good, considering that wire cables have been needed to support the tree for the past three years as a result of previous damage. The tree’s final prognosis is unknown, as arborists are still determining whether the damage will prove fatal.

Individual companies pledging to engage in “zero deforestation” can be a good first step, but it doesn’t necessary mean what you think. For example, a company’s practices can clear forests and still say they have “zero net deforestation” so long as they plant an equivalent area of trees. Other limitations can include difficulty in tracking the forestry management practices of smaller, third party distributors that work with the corporation. There is even disagreement on what the technical classification of a “forest” is, as the legal definition differs from country to county.

Learn from nature photographer Ross Hoddinott his tips for taking pictures of rivers, trees and mushrooms.