China timber sector looks at tougher EU/US import rules


The China Timber and Wood Products Circulation Association (CTWPCA) is seeking to establish a body to help importers navigate new environmental regulations in the US and EU that restrict trade in illegally logged timber, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).

In a recent market report, ITTO said that Chinese importers fear failing to meet the new regulations that govern the sourcing of timber products.

The US’s Lacey Act and the EU’s FLEGT ruling put the burden of responsibility on importing companies, holding them to the environmental laws of producing countries.

Companies found to be sourcing illegally logged timber could be subject to fines or worse.

A company accused of using illicit rosewood from Madagascar, was the first company to be charged and investigated under the Lacey Act.

The legislation was amended in 2008 to include “anyone who imported, exported, transported, sold, received, acquired or purchased the wood products made from that illegal timber, who knew or should have known that the wood was illegal.” The firm’s case is pending.

According to ITTO, CTWPCA believes traders need “guidance and support” on the new international requirements.

The body would also set up a “responsible procurement system” for timber imports, seek to address corruption in the timber import and trade sector, and aim to help Chinese timber traders meet international standards.

China already has guidelines governing Chinese companies operating forest concessions overseas.

These compel companies to abide by local environmental laws and take measures to reduce pollution. However, some observers suggest that there is no indication that these mandatory rules are being enforced.

Source: Mongabay.com

Date: 02/09/2010

US wolf re-introduction still leaves aspens quaking


The re-introduction of wolves in a US National Park in the mid-1990s is not helping quaking aspens (Populus tremuloides) to become re-established, as many researchers hoped.

In a study published in the journal Ecology showed that the population of wolves in Yellowstone Park was not deterring elks from eating young trees and saplings.

It was assumed that the presence of wolves would create a “landscape of fear”, resulting in no-go areas for elks.

Researchers writing in the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) journal said that the aspens were not regenerating well in the park as a result of the elk eating the young trees.

However, they added that the conventional wisdom suggested that as the wolves were predators of the elk, it was thought that the elk would eventually learn to avoid high-risk areas in which the wolves were found.

This would then allow plants in those areas – such as aspen – to grow big enough without being eaten and killed by the elk. And in the long-term, the thinking went, the habitat would be restored.

In this latest study, lead author Matthew Kauffman – a US Geological Survey scientist – suggested the findings showed that claims of an ecosystem-wide recovery of aspen were premature.

“This study not only confirms that elk are responsible for the decline of aspen in Yellowstone beginning in the 1890s, but also that none of the aspen groves studied after wolf restoration appear to be regenerating, even in areas risky to elk,” Dr Kauffman explained.

Because the “landscape of fear” idea did not appear to be benefiting aspen, the team concluded that if the Northern Range elk population did not continue to decline (their numbers are 40% of what they were before wolves), many of Yellowstone’s aspen stands were unlikely to recover.

“A landscape-level aspen recovery is likely only to occur if wolves, in combination with other predators and climate factors, further reduce the elk population,” observed Dr Kauffman.

The paper, Are wolves saving Yellowstone’s aspen? A landscape-level test of a behaviorally mediated trophic cascade, has been published online in Ecology. The authors of the paper are: Matthew Kauffman (USGS), Jedediah Brodie (University of Montana) and Erik Jules (Humboldt State University).

Source: ESA press release

Date: 01/09/2010

US Forest Services announces plan to save at risk forests


US Forest Service chief Gail Kimbell announced $50 million in grants to permanently protect 24 working forests across 21 States, as part of the  Forest Legacy Program, a USDA press release said.

The programme is designed to permanently protects important private forestland threatened by conversion.

“The Forest Legacy Program conserves open space, which allows us to respond to climate change, improves water quality and flows and connects children to nature,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“The strength of the Forest Legacy Program is the co-operation between States, partners and private landowners, all working together to protect environmentally and economically important forests that are threatened by conversion.”

Examples of 2009 projects include: forest essential for wildlife and recreation in Maine; pine ecosystem critical for threatened and endangered species in Arkansas and working forests that support rural jobs in Oregon.

The Forest Legacy Program promotes voluntary land conservation by operating on the principle of “willing buyer, willing seller”.

Private forest landowners are facing increasing real estate prices, property taxes and development pressure, which result in conversion of forests to other land uses.

The Forest Legacy Program focuses on conserving working forests – those that provide clean water, forest products, fish and wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

Most Forest Legacy Program projects are conserved through conservation easements, allowing landowners to keep their forestlands while protecting them from future development.

Source: USDA press release

Date: 18/05/2009

Top five invasive threats to US southern forests


Apologies that this post refers to information issued in a press release by the US Forest Service back in January, but it contains interesting data and links that could be of use to people – Take Cover team.

US Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) ecologist Jim Miller, considered to be one of the foremost authorities on non-native plants in the  southern US, has identified the five invasive plant species he believes pose the biggest threats to southern forest ecosystems in 2009.

“Cogongrass, tallowtree, and Japanese climbing fern are among the fastest moving and most destructive non-native plant species facing many southern landowners this year,” Dr Miller warned.

“Rounding out the top five invasive species that I’m very concerned about would be tree-of-heaven and non-native privets.

“While our forests are besieged by numerous invasive plants, these and other non-native species present serious financial and ecological threats to the South and its forests.”

Non-native species often out-compete native forest plants and may degrade forest productivity, wildlife habitat, recreational values, and water quality.

Invasive species also greatly increase expenses as public and private land managers work to combat their spread and deal with their effects (such as increased wildfire risk and severity).

Non-native plants can be introduced and spread by wildlife or through other natural means.

Humans also spread invasive species by planting them in their gardens and yards and as a result of seeds hitchhiking on clothes.

Additionally, tractors and mowers used in multiple locations without being cleaned often spread the plants.

In an effort to inform forest managers, landowners, and others about where the most threatening invasive plants are in the South, Dr Miller collaborated with SRS Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) scientists to develop maps showing the spread, county-by-county, across the south-east of more than 30 of the most serious non-native plant species.

The invasive plant data were collected on FIA plots throughout the southern US in co-operation with state forestry agencies.

In partnership with the University of Georgia’s Center for Invasive Species Science and Ecosystem Health, SRS researchers recently posted the maps and occupation levels online.

Dr Miller hopes government agencies, forest managers, natural resource professionals, landowners, students, and others will use the information to help combat the spread of non-native plant species in southern forest and grassland ecosystems.

Source: US Forest Service press release

Date: 12/01/2009

US shade trees cut bills and emissions


Shade trees on the west and south sides of a house in California can reduce a homeowners’ energy bills by about $25, a study has concluded.

The survey, involving 460 homes in the Sacramento area, is described as the “first large-scale study to use utility billing data to show that trees can reduce energy consumption”.

“Everyone knows that shade trees cool a house,” said co-author Geoffrey Donovan. “No one is going to get a Nobel Prize for that conclusion.

“But this study gets at the details,” he added. “Where should a tree be placed to get the most benefits? And how exactly do shade trees impact our carbon footprint?”

Dr Donovan is a research forester with the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest (PNW) research station, compiled the findings with economist David Butry of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Some of the study’s key findings are:

  • Placement of a tree is the key to energy savings. Shade trees do affect summertime electricity use, but the amount of the savings depends on the location of the tree.
  • Trees planted within 40 feet of the south side or within 60 feet of the west side of the house will generate about the same amount of energy savings. This is because of the way shadows fall at different times of the day.
  • Tree cover on the east side of a house has no effect on electricity use.
  • A tree planted on the west side of a house can reduce net carbon emissions from summertime electricity use by 30%.

The report, The Value of Shade: Estimating the Effect of Urban Trees on Summertime Electricity Use, has been submitted for publication to the journal Energy and Buildings.

The researchers said they chose to do their study on homes in Sacramento because of the city’s hot summers and the fact that most people use air conditioners.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District, in partnership Sacramento Tree Foundation, operates an active tree planting programme, in which residents are eligible for up to 10 free trees each year.

Source: press release

Date: 05/01/2009

Pine beetles ‘affecting Rockies air quality and climate’


When pine bark beetles kill trees, scientists believe they may also alter local weather patterns and air quality, reports the Environmental News Service (ENS).

For the next four years, researchers will study forests from southern Wyoming to northern New Mexico to determine the precise relationship between the beetles, the trees they kill and the atmosphere.

A new international field project, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, is exploring how trees killed by the beetles influence rainfall, temperatures, smog and other aspects of the atmosphere.

“Forests help control the atmosphere, and there’s a big difference between the impacts of a living forest and a dead forest,” says NCAR scientist Alex Guenther, a principal investigator on the project. “With a dead forest, we may get different rainfall patterns, for example.”

Preliminary computer modeling suggests that beetle kill can lead to temporary temperature increases of between two and four degrees Fahrenheit. This is partly because of a lack of foliage to reflect the Sun’s heat back into space.

Beetle kill stimulates trees to release more particles and chemicals into the atmosphere as they try to fight off the insects, Dr Guenther says. This worsens air quality, at least initially, by increasing levels of ground-level ozone and particulate matter.

The mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae, is a species of bark beetle native to the forests of western North America from Mexico to central British Columbia and Alberta.

Forests in Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota are experiencing bark beetle epidemics at a historically unprecedented scale, according to the US Forest Service.

A plan by the Service to deal with the beetles will log, burn, or spray 104,000 acres of lodgepole pines in the Rocky Mountain Region by 2011.

Researchers from the Canadian Forest Service have studied the relationship between the carbon cycle and forest fires, logging and tree deaths.

They conclude that by 2020, the pine beetle outbreak will have released 270 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from Canadian forests.

The NCAR project, known as BEACHON for Bio-hydro-atmosphere interactions of Energy, Aerosols, Carbon, H2O, Organics and Nitrogen, is funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR’s sponsor.

BEACHON will allow scientists to gain insights into cloud formation, climate change, and the cycling of gases and particles between the land and the atmosphere, according to Cliff Jacobs, program director in NSF’s Division of Atmospheric Sciences.

The exchange of gases and particles between the surface and the atmosphere is critical in arid areas such as the western United States.

Dr Guenther says even slight changes in precipitation can impact the region.

“Here in the western United States, it is particularly important to understand these subtle impacts on precipitation,” Guenther says. “Rain and snow may become even more scarce in the future as the climate changes, and the growing population wants ever more water.”

Researchers will use aircraft as well as towers that reach above the forest canopy to measure emissions at 100 feet above the ground.

Additional data will come from soil and moisture sensors, instruments for gases and tiny particles, radars, and lidars, which are radar-like devices that use light instead of radio waves.

“BEACHON will give us a very comprehensive picture of a forest’s impact on the atmosphere,” Dr Guenther says.

“But at this point, we don’t know what the project will reveal. We may end up with more questions than answers.”

Organisations participating in the project include Colorado College, Colorado State University, Cornell University, Texas A&M University, and the universities of Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Washington, as well as the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and universities in Austria, France and Japan.

Source: ENS

Date: 2/10/2008

Autumn watch on both sides of the Atlantic


Tree lovers on both sides of the Atlantic are able to make sure that they do not miss out on the colourful delights of autumn, thanks to the websites of the US Forest Service and the UK Forestry Commission.

The US Forest Service is offering people a free “hotline”,  which is an automated phone service that will inform callers about the colour of the leaves in the national forests.

Meanwhile in the UK, the Forestry Commission has set up a website that offers a colour-coded website of the commission’s plantations. The website shows what colour the leaves of the various woodlands have reached (ranging from “still green” to “turned golden”).

Although the UK experienced a much wetter than average August, an official for the Forestry Commission said that the woodlands were still “on course” for a colourful autumn.

Source: US Forest Service and UK Forestry Commission websites

Date: 24/09/2008

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