Posts tagged forest
“Spring is a great time of year to get out on your land and begin preparing your property for wildfires.”
Boulder County, Colo. – The Boulder County Forest Health Initiative is pleased to announce the Community Forestry Sort Yard operating schedule for 2013. Two sort yard locations are open each summer to provide residents a free of charge location to dispose of logs and slash cut from their land.
The sort yards do not accept yard clippings, raked up pine needles, root balls, construction materials, dirt, furniture, household trash or wood with metal in it. Sort yard staff will refuse loads that contain unacceptable items.
Allenspark/Meeker Park Sort Yard
- Spring hours: Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 24th thru June 15th
- Summer/Fall hours: Tuesday thru Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 30th thru Oct. 19th
Nederland Area Sort Yard
- Spring hours: Tuesday thru Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 1st thru July 6th (closed July 4th)
- Summer/Fall hours: Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 20th thru Oct. 12th (these dates are tentative)
The Community Forestry Sort Yards may have additional closures during the open season due to weather, staff training or other administrative requirements. To check the operational status of a sort yard please call 303-678-6368.
Boulder County encourages all of its residents to be good stewards of their backyard forest and to implement effective wildfire mitigation on their land.
“The spring is a great time of year to get out on your land and begin preparing your property for wildfires,” said Ryan Ludlow outreach forester with the county’s Land Use Department. “Simple actions like picking up downed branches, raking away all pine needles within 5 feet of your structures, cutting tall dead grass and moving leftover winter firewood piles off of porches and placing them at least 30 feet away from the home can really help improve the chances of your home surviving the next wildfire.”
If you want to learn more about how to implement effective wildfire mitigation on your land join us at the Nederland Community Center on May 11 for a half day workshop focused on “Firewise Landscaping.” Learn how to transform your home’s perimeter into an area that you can not only use, but also looks good and helps protect your home from wildfire.
For more information about the sort yard program or how to implement proactive wildfire mitigation on your land, contact Ryan Ludlow, Boulder County Forest Health Initiative’s outreach forester, at 720-564-2641 firstname.lastname@example.org.
CU-led study shows pine beetle outbreak
buffers watersheds from nitrate pollution
A research team involving several scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder has found an unexpected silver lining in the devastating pine beetle outbreaks ravaging the West: Such events do not harm water quality in adjacent streams as scientists had previously believed.
According to CU-Boulder team member Professor William Lewis, the new study shows that smaller trees and other vegetation that survive pine beetle invasions along waterways increase their uptake of nitrate, a common disturbance-related pollutant. While logging or damaging storms can drive stream nitrate concentrations up by 400 percent for multiple years, the team found no significant increase in the nitrate concentrations following extensive pine beetle tree mortality in a number of Colorado study areas.
“We found that the beetles do not disturb watersheds in the same way as logging and severe storms,” said Lewis, interim director of CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. “They leave behind smaller trees and other understory vegetation, which compensate for the loss of larger pine trees by taking up additional nitrate from the system. Beetle-kill conditions are a good benchmark for the protection of sub-canopy vegetation to preserve water quality during forest management activities.”
A paper on the subject was published in the Jan. 14 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The U.S. Forest Service and other agencies have established harvesting practices that greatly mitigate damage to forests caused by logging, and they deserve credit for that,” said Lewis. “But this study shows just how important the survival of smaller trees and understory vegetation can be to stream water quality.”
In waterways adjacent to healthy pine forests, concentrations of nitrate is generally far lower than in rivers on the plains in the West like the South Platte, said Lewis. Nitrate pollution is caused by agricultural runoff from populated areas and by permitted discharges of treated effluent from water treatment facilities.
“In Colorado, many watersheds have lost 80 to 90 percent of their tree canopy as a result of the beetle epidemic,” said Lewis, also a faculty member in CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department. “We began to wonder whether the loss of the trees was reducing water quality in the streams. We knew that forestry and water managers were expecting big changes in water quality as a result of the pine beetle outbreak, so we decided to pool our university and federal agency resources in order to come up with an answer.”
Study co-author and CU-Boulder Research Associate James McCutchan of CIRES said the new results should help forest managers develop more effective ways to harvest timber while having the smallest effect possible on downstream ecosystems. “This study shows that at least in some areas, it is possible to remove a large part of the tree biomass from a watershed with a very minimal effect on the stream ecosystem,” he said.
Understory vegetation left intact after beetle outbreaks gains an ecological advantage in terms of survival and growth, since small trees no longer have to compete with large trees and have more access to light, water and nutrients, said McCutchan. Research by study co-author and former CU undergraduate Rachel Ertz showed concentrations of nitrate in the needles of small pines that survived beetle infestations were higher than those in healthy trees outside beetle-killed areas, another indication of how understory vegetation compensates for environmental conditions in beetle kill areas.
The researchers used computer modeling to show that in western forests, such a “compensatory response” provides potent water quality protection against the adverse effects of nitrates only if roughly half of the vegetation survives “overstory” mortality from beetle kill events, which is what occurs normally in such areas, said Lewis.
Other study co-authors included Leigh Cooper, Thomas Detmer and Thomas Veblen from CU-Boulder, John Stednick from Colorado State University, Charles Rhoades from the U.S. Forest Service, Jennifer Briggs and David Clow from the U.S. Geological Survey and Gene Likens of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.
The severe pine beetle epidemic in Colorado and Wyoming forests is part of an unprecedented beetle outbreak that ranges from Mexico to Canada. A November 2012 study by CU-Boulder doctoral student Teresa Chapman showed the 2001-02 drought greatly accelerated the development of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
The researchers measured stream nitrate concentrations at more than 100 sites in western Colorado containing lodgepole pines with a range of beetle-induced tree damage. The study area included measurements from the Fraser Experimental Forest near Granby, Colo., a 23,000-acre study area established by the USFS in 1937.
The new study was funded by the USFS, the USGS, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service. CIRES is a joint research institute between CU-Boulder and NOAA.
Tomorrow, December 19, 2012, Sheriff Joe Pelle will rescind the current Fire Ban. The recent precipitation has reduced the fire danger threat by increasing the amount of moisture in the grasses and the other fuels.
Boulder County, Colo. – A forest thinning project at Heil Valley Ranch Open Space began on Friday and will continue until June. The Boulder County Parks and Open Space Department has hired a local contractor to mechanically treat approximately 150 acres of ponderosa pine forest.
Visitors to the open space property will likely hear the operations along the Wapiti Trail and Ponderosa Loop during the next eight months. Visitors must stay on-trail to protect their safety and that of the equipment operators.
Like so many ponderosa pine forests, the area is unnaturally dense due to years of fire suppression. This forestry project will create a mosaic of openings and uneven-aged groupings of trees. The goal is to have a healthier forest that is less susceptible to insects, disease or catastrophic wild fires. The treatment involves the use of two primary machines; a harvester that fells, delimbs, and bucks the tree into standard log lengths, and a forwarder to haul wood material off-site.
For additional information, contact Forest Specialist Nick Stremel at 303-678-6290 or email@example.com.
The University of Colorado at Boulder has been awarded $1.4 million for a new study on how changes in land use, forest management and climate may affect trans-basin water diversions in Colorado and other semi-arid regions in the western United States.
The grant, part of the National Science Foundation-U.S. Department of Agriculture Water Sustainability Climate Program, was awarded to Assistant Professor Noah Molotch of the geography department. Molotch and his team will be identifying thresholds, or “tipping points,” of change in land use, forest management and climate that may compromise the sustainability of the policies and procedures that dictate the timing and quality of water diverted from Colorado’s West Slope to the Front Range.
Molotch said that in Colorado and semi-arid regions around the world, trans-basin water diversions that redirect water from areas of surplus to areas of demand are based on policy agreements and infrastructure operations made under climatic and land use conditions that may differ considerably from conditions in the near future. Measurements over the past 50 years, for example, suggest a broad-scale reduction in snowpack water storage in the western U.S. because of regional warming temperatures, a trend due in part to a shift from snowfall to rainfall, he said.
In addition, land-cover changes associated with population growth, fire suppression and mountain pine beetle outbreaks have altered the hydrology of mid-mountain ecosystems in the West, said Molotch, who also is a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. CU is teaming up with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder on the NSF-funded project.
The NSF award comes on the heels of a May 2012 agreement between water managers in Summit and Grand counties on Colorado’s West Slope and in the Denver area on how best to share water from the Colorado River basin. “This is a great example of communities that historically battled for water resources coming to the table in a good faith effort to find solutions to water allocation issues,” said Molotch. “These groups have no pretenses about the potential impacts of climate change and realize we can’t afford to bury our heads in the sand on this issue.”
Collaborators on the project include Patrick Bourgeron and Mark Williams, fellows at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, and David Gochis, Kathleen Miller and David Yates of NCAR.
A study led by Molotch published Sept. 10 in Nature Geoscience tied forest “greenness” in the western United States to fluctuating year-to-year snowpack. The study indicated mid-elevation mountain ecosystems — where people increasing are building second homes and participating in a myriad of outdoor recreational activities — are most sensitive to rising temperatures and changes in precipitation and snowmelt.
“We found that mid-elevation forests show a dramatic sensitivity to snow that fell the previous winter in terms of accumulation and subsequent melt,” said Molotch, also a fellow at INSTAAR. “If snowpack declines, forests become more stressed, which can lead to ecological changes that include alterations in the distribution and abundance of plant and animal species as well as vulnerability to perturbations like fire and beetle kill.”
As part of the new award, Molotch and his team will evaluate regional climate models in the mountain West developed at NCAR in an attempt to make temperature, precipitation and snowpack projections “more robust,” Molotch said. While the efficiency of water in trans-basin diversion projects in the western U.S. has in the past been enhanced by the natural storage of moisture in mountain snowpack that allowed for a slow, steady delivery of water into the system, warming temperatures are already causing this beneficial “drip effect” to be greatly reduced, he said.
If the winter temperatures are hovering around 15 degrees Fahrenheit and the climate warms by a few degrees, for example, there will be negligible impact on snowpack, Molotch said. But if temperatures hover near freezing, slight temperature increases can trigger earlier snowmelt, and precipitation that used to be in the form of snow turns to rain, significantly affecting trans-basin water diversion activities.
“One of the most interesting aspects of this project to me is the changes we are seeing in the ‘wildland-urban interface,’ particularly in Colorado,” he said. “There is some irony that Front Range people who have built second homes in Summit County, for example, may actually start to have an effect on the water they have relied on to be piped through the Continental Divide to the Denver area.”
In addition to providing land and water resource decision makers with projections on how future water supply and demand will change in the future, the NSF-funded project will provide a unique educational experience for graduate students, Molotch said.
“We have climate change, snowpack, changes in land use, all feeding into the pipeline that is bringing water to Colorado’s Front Range,” he said. “As the two main stressors, climate change and land use increase, there is the possibility of pushing the systems into an unsustainable state.”
A new University of Colorado Boulder-led study that ties forest “greenness” in the western United States to fluctuating year-to-year snowpack indicates mid-elevation mountain ecosystems are most sensitive to rising temperatures and changes in precipitation and snowmelt.
Forests where people live and play to be hit hardest
Led by CU-Boulder researcher Ernesto Trujillo and Assistant Professor Noah Molotch, the study team used the data — including satellite images and ground measurements — to identify the threshold where mid-level forests sustained primarily by moisture change to higher-elevation forests sustained primarily by sunlight and temperature. Being able to identify this “tipping point” is important because it is in the mid-level forests — at altitudes from roughly 6,500 to 8,000 feet — where many people live and play in the West and which are associated with increasing wildfires, beetle outbreaks and increased tree mortality, said Molotch.
“Our results provide the first direct observations of the snowpack-forest connections across broad spatial scales,” said Molotch, also a research scientist at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. “Finding the tipping point between water-limited forests and energy-limited forests defines for us the region of the greatest sensitivity to climate change — the mid-elevation forests — which is where we should focus future research.”
While the research by Molotch and his team took place in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, it is applicable to other mountain ranges across the West, he said. The implications are important, since climate studies indicate the snowpack in mid-elevation forests in the Western United States and other similar forests around the world has been decreasing in the past 50 years because of regional warming.
Forests are drying and becoming more vulnerable
“We found that mid-elevation forests show a dramatic sensitivity to snow that fell the previous winter in terms of accumulation and subsequent melt,” said Molotch, also a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “If snowpack declines, forests become more stressed, which can lead to ecological changes that include alterations in the distribution and abundance of plant and animal species as well as vulnerability to perturbations like fire and beetle kill.”
A paper on the subject was published online Sept. 9 in Nature Geosciences. Co-authors on the study include Ernesto Trujillo of INSTAAR and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, Michael Golden and Anne Kelly of the University of California, Irvine, and Roger Bales of the University of California, Merced. The National Science Foundation and NASA funded the study.
Molotch said the study team attributed about 50 percent of the greenness in mid-elevation forests by satellites to maximum snow accumulation from the previous winter, with the other 50 percent caused by conditions like soil depth, soil nutrients, temperature and sunlight. “The strength of the relationship between forest greenness and snowpack from the previous year was quite surprising to us,” Molotch said.
The research team initially set out to identify the various components of drought that lead to vegetation stress, particularly in mountain snowpack, said Molotch. “We went after snowpack in the western U.S. because it provides about 60 to 80 percent of the water input in high elevation mountains.”
The team used 26 years of continuous data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer, a space-borne sensor flying on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite, to measure the forest greenness. The researchers compared it to long-term data from 107 snow stations maintained by the California Cooperative Snow Survey, a consortium of state and federal agencies.
In addition, the researchers used information gathered from several “flux towers” in the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range, which measure the exchanges of carbon dioxide, water vapor and energy between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere. Instruments on the towers, which are roughly 100 feet high, allowed them to measure the sensitivity of both mid-level and high-level mountainous regions in both wet and dry years — data that matched up well with the satellite and ground data, he said.
“The implications of this study are profound when you think about the potential for ecological change in mountainous environments in the West in the not too distant future,” said Molotch, an assistant professor in the geography department. “If we take our study and project forward in time when climate models are calling for warming and drying conditions, the implication is that forests will be increasingly water-stressed in the future and thus more vulnerable to fires and insect outbreaks.
“When you put this into the context of recent losses in Colorado and elsewhere in the West to forest fire devastation, then it becomes something we really have to pay attention to,” he said. “This tipping-point elevation is very likely to migrate up the mountainsides as the climate warms.”
Forest Health Outreach Program offers tips and tools for landowners
Boulder County, Colo. – The Boulder County Forest Health Initiative is pleased to announce that the Nederland Community Forestry Sort Yard will reopen to area residents on Saturday, Aug. 4.
The sort yard, located at 291 Ridge Road just north of Nederland, will be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Oct. 20.
Boulder County operates two sort yards each summer in order to provide residents a free of charge location to dispose of logs and slash cut from their land. The Allenspark/Meeker Park area sort yard, located on the Peak-to-Peak Highway just north of the Boulder-Larimer county line closed for the season on July 7.
The widely popular sort yard program has experienced increasingly high usage since it first started accepting material in 2008.
“It was truly amazing seeing so many landowners taking action to prepare their homes for future wildfires,” sort yard manager Wayne Harrington said. “This summer we have seen a nearly constant stream of traffic with trucks, trailers, and even Subarus filled to the brim with slash and logs.”
Why should forest landowners be interested in this county service?
The county’s Forest Health Outreach Program for private landowners has been actively encouraging all forest landowners to be good stewards of their backyard forest. The county recommends all landowners create effective defensible space around their homes, aggressively fight bark beetle infestations, and otherwise create healthy sustainable forest ecosystems on their land.
Community forestry sort yards are one tool available to help landowners effectively manage their forested lands. A major hurdle many landowners face when implementing effective mitigation on their land is what to do with leftover slash and logs.
Learn more about wildfire mitigation and bark beetle management
The county works with local fire protection districts, communities and agency partners to offer local community forestry trainings and workshops on wildfire mitigation, bark beetle management and forest restoration. Residents can connect with the Boulder County Forest Outreach Program for private landowners by visiting www.BoulderCounty.org/ForestHealth.
One of the best ways to stay connected about upcoming programs is to sign up for the forest health listserv at www.BoulderCounty.org/ForestHealth. Once signed up, individuals will receive periodic forestry tips of the day, information about upcoming forestry trainings, and other information directly related to managing a backyard forest.
In addition, county outreach forester Ryan Ludlow is available to help answer individual forestry questions and can help set-up free mini neighborhood forest management workshops at a home or at larger community trainings for HOAs, towns and neighborhoods. Give Ryan a call at 720-564-2641 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Forest Landowners are also encouraged to work with the Boulder District of Colorado State Forest Service to implement effective mitigation on their land. CSFS is the lead state agency providing forest stewardship and wildfire mitigation assistance to private landowners. Contact the Boulder District of CSFS at 303-823-5774.
To learn more about how to create and maintain effective wildfire mitigation on personal property visit http://csfs.colostate.edu/pages/wf-protection.html orwww.firewise.org.
To learn more about bark beetle management visit www.BoulderCounty.org/ForestHealth and open the “Bark Beetle Inspector Identification and Treatment Field Guide” or visit http://csfs.colostate.edu/pages/mountain-pine-beetle.html.
“Hotshots” looks at a movie!
Mirror Mirror is the most recent Hollywood version of the fairy tale about Snow White, another version is even being released later this year, but you just might be surprised at how well you enjoy this one with Julia Roberts starring as the evil Queen.
In fact, at the beginning in a voice-over by the Queen as she narrates the background of the story about Snow White, the Queen says, “And this is my story, not hers.”
Snow White is played by Lily Collins, the daughter of seven-time Grammy winner Phil Collins, and we are told that she was left under the care of the Queen when the King disappeared mysteriously, and under the control of the Queen, the once prosperous kingdom has now become close to destitute.
The people in the kingdom don’t sing and dance like they used to, and shouldn’t it be called the queendom now, anyway?
At any rate, Snow White has been confined to the castle by the Queen all these years, and when she is 18, Snow White sneaks out of the castle to see for herself what has been happening in the queendom.
While she is in the forest, Snow White rescues the charming Prince Alcott, played by Armie Hammer, who, along with his companion, has been robbed by a gang of seven thieves.
Well, you can pretty much guess the rest, can’t you, but I’ll bet you can’t guess the names of the seven dwarfs, who here have been named Napoleon, Half Pint, Grub, Grimm, Wolf, Butcher, and Chuckles, and who live in the woods because the Queen had all the “ugly people” banished from the village.
Another change to this version of the classic story is the addition of Brighton, who is unofficially called the Queen’s Executive Bootlicker and who is played by Nathan Lane.
Also, the order of some of the events that we are familiar with from previous versions of the story have been turned around, but again, because Julia Roberts is the bigger star and because she said so at the beginning, this is a story more about the Queen than a story about Snow White.
However, when it reaches the part in the story where “they all lived happily ever after,” both the Queen and the audience might be surprised.
Mirror Mirror is surprisingly excellent.
I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”
Someone needs to ask Boulder fire chief — county sheriff — city manager …
….DOES the possibility of increased wilderness usage by homeless people –
people who may have been affected or influenced by Boulder’s new rules
banning people from parks at night — indicate a higher risk of fire?
In fact, there’s no other conclusion that can be reached.
It should be pointed out that stating an increased risk is not bashing the homeless.
If someone is outdoors and physically exposed, and there are limited options,
a fire is something very useful, even if it is in violation of an ordinance.
Also, the circumstances that can lead to a campfire turning into a wildfire
can be as simple as leaving the fire unattended when it appears to be out –
and it’s a phenomena that need occur only in an extremely small fraction of all
instances of people using an outdoor fire to create a disaster, which is not to call homeless people
as a group “firebugs.”
If I’m not mistaken, the Fourmile and/or Dome fires were considered likely to have
been caused by outdoor campfires, according to sheriff Pelle.
The city of Boulder, and soon to be city of Denver, it appears, are enacting
ordinances which essentially ask homeless people to disappear.
One has to consider the availability of “disappearable” locations –
our wilderness areas comprise, geographically, the largest subset of
disappearable locations. It should also be noted, the new rules and
regulations — and the anti-camping ordinances — are essentially a violation
of civil rights, putting people in harm’s way without recourse.
Whilst officials tell their constituents they are “cleaning up” the homeless problem;
facts are, a wildfire caused by a homeless person who might have otherwise
stayed in a city park, without a fire, but closer to basic services –
would be a horrible boomerang effect — not a small price to pay for
relying on law enforcement to solve a social crisis.
People need to open their eyes — not because the homeless
somehow threaten to burn down Colorado, but because
the risk of fire is substantial enough that the only prudent thing
to do under these circumstances is everything in our power
to lessen risk. It would be one thing if every homeless
person represented a lost tree. The mathematics of the risk, in this case,
indicate that it could be one non-malicious homeless person out of thousands causing
the loss of a forest or homes or lives. That increased risk, in light of the new
laws, is a serious issue. The risk situation is analogous
to nuclear power safety. It’s perfectly safe, except when it isn’t.
Put another way, although many thousands of matches
may be lit that do not lead to a forest fire, it still takes only one lit match.
Another aspect, of equal concern I’m certain,
is that putting people into the wilderness — which is simply an obvious possible
result of the anti-homeless ordinances — exposes them to a spectrum of dangers.
People die out in the wilderness all the time for lack of food, water, warmth
or emergency medical services.
The immediate solution is to suspend enactment of ordinances
banning people from public places. If Boulder or Denver residents find the presence of homeless
people inconvenient or unpleasant, then solutions that don’t involve making them “disappear”
must be sought.
Rob Smoke is a political columnist for Boulder Channel 1 often writing about city politics. Rob is a critic and one man watch dog of the council and has been for over 20 years. He has been a writer and journalist for many local papers. Tuesdays nights he can be found at Boulder city council meetings.
Discovery of pine beetles breeding twice in a year
helps explain increasing damage, CU researchers say
Long thought to produce only one generation of tree-killing offspring annually, some populations of mountain pine beetles now produce two generations per year, dramatically increasing the potential for the bugs to kill lodgepole and ponderosa pine trees, University of Colorado Boulder researchers have found.
Because of the extra annual generation of beetles, there could be up to 60 times as many beetles attacking trees in any given year, their study found. And in response to warmer temperatures at high elevations, pine beetles also are better able to survive and attack trees that haven’t previously developed defenses.
These are among the key findings of Jeffry Mitton, a CU-Boulder professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and Scott Ferrenberg, a graduate student in that department. The study is being published this month in The American Naturalist.
This exponential increase in the beetle population might help to explain the scope of the current beetle epidemic, which is the largest in history and extends from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico to the Yukon Territory near Alaska.
“This thing is immense,” Mitton said. The duo’s research, conducted in 2009 and 2010 at CU’s Mountain Research Station, located about 25 miles west of Boulder, helps explain why.
“We followed them through the summer, and we saw something that had never been seen before,” Mitton said. “Adults that were newly laid eggs two months before were going out and attacking trees” — in the same year. Normally, mountain pine beetles spend a winter as larvae in trees before emerging as adults the following summer.
These effects may be particularly pronounced at higher elevations, where warmer temperatures have facilitated beetle attacks. In the last two decades at the Mountain Research Station, mean annual temperatures were 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they were in the previous two decades.
Warmer temperatures gave the beetle larvae more spring days to grow to adulthood. The number of spring days above freezing temperatures increased by 15.1 in the last two decades, Mitton and Ferrenberg report. Also, the number of days that were warm enough for the beetles to grow increased by 44 percent since 1970.
The Mountain Research Station site is about 10,000 feet in elevation, 1,000 feet higher than the beetles have historically thrived. In their study, Mitton and Ferrenberg emphasize this anomaly.
“While our study is limited in area, it was completed in a site that was characterized as climatically unsuitable for (mountain pine beetle) development by the U.S. Forest Service only three decades ago,” they write.
But in 25 years, the beetles have expanded their range 2,000 feet higher in elevation and 240 miles north in latitude in Canada, Mitton said.
Ferrenberg had the idea to monitor the beetles at higher elevations partly because trees at lower elevations have been attacked by beetles for centuries and have developed some defenses.
Lodgepole pines at higher elevations tended to have a lower density of resin ducts, which transport resin, the sole defense against beetles. The number of resin ducts in a tree can be a “marker” for whether a tree has a higher or lower resistance to a beetle attack, Ferrenberg said.
The trees at higher elevations had not faced the same intensity of beetle attacks as those at lower elevations until temperatures warmed, and they have not faced pressures of natural selection exerted by attacking beetles. “The trees in that area are somewhat naïve in their response,” Ferrenberg said.
These data help explain why westbound motorists emerging from the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 can look up, from 11,000 feet in elevation, and see beetle-killed trees. “We think we see some of the reason for the fact that this epidemic is so widespread,” Mitton said.
The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
More on this story will appear in the next edition of Colorado Arts and Sciences Magazine at http://artsandsciences.colorado.edu/magazine/
Source: Colorado Arts and Sciences Magazine
Boulder County, Colo. – The Boulder County Forest Health Initiative invites Nederland-area residents to attend a community meeting to discuss the first year of operations of the Nederland Area Community Forestry Sort Yard program.
What: Community meeting for residents to provide input on operations at the Nederland Area Community Forestry Sort Yard
When: Tuesday, July 12, 7 p.m.
Where: Nederland Community Center, 750 Highway 72 North
The sort yard was opened this year as a new service for residents in the Nederland area, and the county wants to make sure it is providing residents with the most useful, best practices possible for collecting and processing logs and slash cut from their lands.
County staff will kick off the meeting with a presentation about sort yard usage, total days of operation and the amount of material collected during the first year of operation. The second part of the meeting will focus on gathering public feedback about how the first year of operations went for residents in the Nederland community.
No RSVP is needed to attend. Community members may email comments and suggestions prior to the meeting to email@example.com.
The Community Forestry Sort Yard program was established by Boulder County to help landowners fight bark beetle infestations, create better defensible space around homes and communities and to help create healthier forest conditions in the foothills of the county. Two sort yard locations are open each summer on a rotating schedule to provide residents a convenient free of charge location to dispose of logs and slash cut from their land.
For more information about the program, bark beetle management or general questions backyard forest management, contact Boulder County Outreach Forester Ryan Ludlow at 720-564-2641 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boulder County, Colo. – The Boulder County Parks and Open Space Department has hired a local contractor to mechanically treat approximately 150 acres of ponderosa pine forest in Heil Valley Ranch beginning on Monday, June 20.
The thinning project will conclude in September. Park visitors will likely hear the operations along the Ponderosa Loop Trail during the next three months and are strongly advised to stay on-trail for personal safety and that of the equipment operators.
“Like so many ponderosa pine forests, this area is unnaturally dense due to years of fire suppression,” Parks and Open Space Outreach Coordinator Pascale Fried said. “This project will create a mosaic of openings and uneven-aged groupings of trees. The goal is to have a healthier forest that is less susceptible to insects, disease and catastrophic wildfires.”
The treatment utilizes a harvester that fells, delimbs and bucks trees into standard log lengths, and a forwarder to haul wood material away from the site. The logs will be used in biomass plants that heat the county Parks and Open Space and Sheriff’s Office buildings.
Smaller wood material, including branches and small trees, will initially be used as a road base for equipment to prevent erosion, then piled and burned in the next few years as conditions permit.
For additional information, contact Forest Specialist Nick Stremel at 303-678-6290 or email@example.com.
MOUNTAIN PINE BEETLE ACTIVITY MAY IMPACT SNOW
ACCUMULATION AND MELT, SAYS CU-BOULDER STUDY
A new University of Colorado Boulder study indicates the infestation of trees by mountain pine beetles in the high country across the West could potentially trigger earlier snowmelt and increase water yields from snowpack that accumulates beneath affected trees.
Led by CU-Boulder geological sciences department doctoral student Evan Pugh, the study was undertaken near Grand Lake, Colo., adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park, an area that has been devastated by mountain pine beetle attacks in recent years. Mountain pine beetles have killed more than 4 million acres of lodgepole pine trees in Colorado and southern Wyoming since 1996, the most severe outbreak on record.
Pugh and his team monitored eight pairs of tree stands, each pair consisting of one live stand and one dead stand roughly an acre each in size and located adjacent to each other, sharing the same topography, elevation and slope. The team monitored the two distinct phases of pine beetle tree death during the three-year study — the “red phase” in which dead trees still retained red needles, and the “gray phase” in which all of the tree needles and some small branches had been shed, said Pugh.
The study showed that there was roughly 15 percent more snow accumulation under the gray phase stands than under living stands or red phase stands, likely due in large part to a lack of “snow interception” by needled tree branches that can cause snowflakes to “sublimate” into gas and return to the atmosphere, he said. Gray phase trees also allow more solar radiation through their canopies than live trees and red phase trees, increasing the potential for earlier melt, said Pugh, lead study author.
Snowmelt rates were highest under red phase trees, with snow disappearing up to a week earlier than snow in adjacent, healthy stands even though both received the same amount of snowfall at their bases. Pugh showed the earlier snowmelt in red phase tree stands is due in large part to the amount of litter — needles and branches — that drops or is blown from the trees onto on the snow surface, decreasing its solar reflecting power, or albedo, and causing it to absorb more of the sun’s radiation and heat up slightly.
“This is the first study to look at the potential effects that different stages of mountain pine beetle tree death may have on snowmelt,” Pugh said. “What we are seeing is earlier snowmelt and more snow accumulation in dead forests.”
A paper on the subject was published online today in the peer-reviewed journal, Ecohydrology. The paper was co-authored by CU-Boulder geological sciences Professor Eric Small and funded in part by a CU-Boulder Innovative Seed Grant. Four undergraduates — Leslie Baehr, Tevis Blom, Bryant Kealey and Jon Hammond — received internship credit for helping to conduct the research.
The study took place at the headwaters of the Colorado River in north-central Colorado. Six of the eight healthy tree stands in the study were made up primarily of lodgepole pines, while two were made up of mixed conifer trees. “One of the hardest parts of this study was to find stands of healthy trees in this area,” said Pugh.
The red phase that occurs following tree death usually lasts about 18 months, and the onset of the gray phase occurs about three or four years after tree death, said Pugh.
“One of the big surprises to me was that changes in snowpack depth and snowmelt timing as a result of the pine beetle outbreak were not larger,” said Small. But the continuing effects could become more significant in the coming decades, he said.
The CU-Boulder team used a wide variety of instruments during the study. In addition to avalanche poles used to periodically measure the snow depth at the 16 study stands, the team also inserted tiny thermometers at various snow depths to help them predict when the snow would likely melt. They also dug snow pits in each of the tree stands and weighed known volumes of snow to calculate density and water content.
Pugh’s team also used devices known as pyranometers to measure the snow surface albedo and the transmission of sunlight through forest canopies. Fisheye camera images taken from the snow surface helped the researchers to calculate the size and structure of the various tree stand canopies, he said.
“The students really got something out of working on this project,” said Small. “Not only did they get internship credit, they had a chance to conduct meaningful research.”
A massive fire in the study area in the late 1800s resulted in most of the succeeding lodgepole pines to be about the same size and age, making them easier targets for pine beetles. While mountain pine beetle infestations are natural events, climate change probably has played a role in the most recent outbreak. Drought conditions in the West in recent years have caused living pines to absorb less water, decreasing their ability to produce enough sap to “pitch out” beetles that are attacking them, Pugh said.
Water managers in Salt Lake City have reported extra water in river basins that hydrologic models had not predicted, Pugh said, an indication beetle-killed trees are having an impact on meltwater.
With the exception of two studies in British Columbia looking at the effects of beetle- killed lodgepole pine trees on snow accumulation and melt on flat terrain at a single site, research regarding the hydrologic impacts of mountain pine beetles has largely been speculative, said Pugh.
“Our study is the first to analyze the multiple stages of tree death from mountain pine beetles and their different impacts on snow accumulation and snowmelt,” said Pugh. “There is no on/off switch here — only gradual changes.
“The effects of the beetle-killed tree stands in terms of snow accumulation are not going to affect ski resort seasons by any means,” he said. “What we can say is there likely will be additional water resources for water managers. Additional snowpack coupled with dead trees that are no longer sucking up water will likely lead to more runoff.”
Boulder County, Colo. – As part of its Forest Health Initiative, Boulder County is offering community forestry trainings and workshops this spring to help residents.
“Bark beetle management is complicated, but people will leave these trainings with a solid understanding about how to fight beetles on their land,” said Ryan Ludlow, Boulder County’s Outreach Forester.
Key Steps to Managing Your Backyard Forest
When: Thursday, April 7, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Where: Nederland Community Center, 750 Highway 72 North
Info: Free forestry training shows how to fight bark beetles and create better defensible space around homes.
The Beetles are Coming: A Call for Community Action
When: Saturday, April 9, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Where: Jamestown Town Hall, 118 Main St.
Info: Free training will focus on what landowners and communities can do to aggressively fight bark beetles as they arrive in our forests.
The Beetles are Coming: A Hands-on Training About Beetle Identification and Management
When: Wednesday, April 13, 6 p.m.
Where: Camp Eden, 11583 Camp Eden Road, Coal Creek Canyon
Info: Free field workshop will focus on effective landowner actions and best, current beetle management strategies.
Boulder County is also offering two wildfire preparedness workshops for residents interested in learning more about creating defensible space around their homes.
“These workshops will give folks an in-depth understanding of actions they can take to help increase the chances of their home surviving the next wildfire,” Ludlow said. “We live in a fire-dependent ecosystem and it is not a question of if a wildfire is going to occur, but when.”
Wildfire Preparedness and Planning Session 1
When: Thursday, April 21, 6-9 p.m.
Where: Boulder County Courthouse, Commissioners’ Hearing Room, 1325 Pearl St, third floor, Boulder
Who should attend: Those living at lower elevations (below 7,500 feet, in ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir dominated forests)
Wildfire Preparedness and Planning Session 2
When: Saturday, April 30, 1-4 p.m.
Where: Gilpin County Community Center, 250 Norton Drive, Black Hawk
RSVP: Pre-registration is required. Call 303-582-9106.
Who should attend: Those living at higher elevations (above 7,500 feet, in mixed conifer and lodgepole pine forests)
Please visit www.BoulderCounty.org/ForestHealth to find additional details about upcoming forestry trainings in your area. Contact Ryan Ludlow at 720-564-2641 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about upcoming trainings and forest management.