Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Climate Change and Virginia Forests – Part 2

In a previous post I reviewed the projected impact of climate change on forest types within Virginia. The Climate Change Tree Atlas also looks at changes in potential habitats for individual species under different climate change scenarios. In this post I will examine the major species changes predicted by these models.

Looking at importance values (an average of basal area and tree counts) from current FIA data, the ten most “important” species in Virginia are in descending order:

1. red maple
2. yellow-poplar
3. loblolly pine
4. chestnut oak
5. post oak
6. white oak
7. Virginia pine
8. flowering dogwood
9. sweetgum
10. blackgum

Under the highest level of change predicted from three different models, the Climate Change Tree Atlas, predicts the ten “important” species would be as follows, as least in terms of potential habitat:

1. loblolly pine
2. sweetgum
3. shortleaf pine
4. red maple
5. white oak
6. winged elm
7. flowering dogwood
8. blackgum
9. eastern redcedar
10. black oak

Three major species have large predicted reductions in habitat potential: red maple, yellow-poplar and chestnut oak. This is in apparent contradiction with recent trends; over the last 60 years of forest inventory data collection these three species have increased greatly in volume. Red maple and yellow-poplar have benefited from the exclusion of wildfires and chestnut oak from the demise of chestnut and the decline in some of the red oaks.

Not surprisingly, some species with limited potential habitat currently, such as balsam fir and red spruce, are predicted to have no future potential habitat.

The model used in the Climate Change Tree Atlas uses current climate and current species distributions to model potential species habitat, and then maps the potential habitat into the future using climate predictions. Implicit are several assumptions. First, that current species distribution is at equilibrium with current climate. Second, that species will move quickly in response to new conditions. Third, that species will not adapt within place to changing climate.

The first of these assumptions is tenuous at best. Our forests are still responding to major changes that have occurred over the last couple of centuries, including: agricultural clearing, industrial logging, fire regime change, chestnut blight, and other invasive species.

The second assumption is widely recognized as problematic given that trees are long-lived and migrate slowly. Furthermore, forest fragmentation is recognized by many as an impediment to migration.

Third, the genetic diversity of many forest species is not considered in these models. The major forest tree species have wide geographic range which indicates a genetic potential to adapt to a wide range of climate. There will be some degree of selection pressure and adaption which will allow some species to show greater persistence in place.

Despite all this uncertainty, climate change on the level predicted would likely have significant impact of our forests, even if there is a large degree of uncertainty as to just what these impacts will be. Climate change effects on fire hazard and fire regimes are a large unknown but could have large impacts on forest conditions and species importance. As forest species move or adapt to changing conditions, mortality and disturbance rates may increase in many areas. Changes in storm patterns, including ice storms and tropical cyclones could change disturbance regimes and interact with other climate-related changes.

For those interested in further reading, a recent article by Botkin et al reviews some of the difficulties in predicting biodiversity changes resulting from climate change models.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wavyleaf Basket Grass, an Invasive Exotic, Found in Virginia

The Nature Conservancy has recently discovered a 20-30 acre infestation of wavy-leaved basket grass (Oplismenus hirtellus ssp. undulatifolius) in mature forest at the Fraser Preserve along the Potomac River in western Fairfax Co.

This "new", though well-established, population is addition to a 80-acre site in the Shenandoah National Park. This threat has similarities and differences to Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum). It is similar in its aggressiveness and shade tolerance. Unlike Microstegium, this species can invade mature, mesic forests without any soil disturbance. Microstegium usually becomes established in such settings by following wood roads and seeding in around downfalls. Wavy-leaved basket grass is easily spread by sticky seeds which attach to boots and pants legs.

Wavy-leaved basket grass, native to Europe and Asia, was first found as an invasive in 1999 in Maryland. More information can on wavy-leaved basket grass be found at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website

Monitoring and proper notification is essential for management of this species. If you find an infestation please contact Gary Fleming at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Climate Change and Virginia’s Forests – Part 1

While there is much debate and uncertainty about the extent and causes of climate change to be expected over this century, there is good evidence from pollen records that tree species do shift with climate. The pollen records also indicate that such shifts are neither smooth nor uniform among species.

A very useful modeling exercise has been recently updated by the US Forest Service. The new Climate Change Tree Atlas examines current distributions and modeled future-climate habitats for individual tree species and forest types. The maps below indicate a shift in climate potential for forest types in the Eastern US. They suggest a decline in Virginia for the potential area of oak-hickory forest type and an increase in potential area of oak-pine, loblolly/shortleaf pine, and oak/gum/cypress.

Figure 1 - Current forest types (from FIA data)

Figure 2 - Predicted Forest-Types (CGM3-High)

Maps from: Prasad, A. M., L. R. Iverson., S. Matthews., M. Peters. 2007-ongoing. A Climate Change Atlas for 134 Forest Tree Species of the Eastern United States [database]. Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Delaware, Ohio.
Long-lived trees can persist in areas where they are no longer the most suited. Also, species tend to move individually rather than as existing species groups, potentially creating new forest types in both the short and long-terms. Studies have indicated that some species existed in disequilibrium with climate conditions for hundreds of years after the last retreat of the continental glaciers. As species persist in areas where they are no longer most suited, they may be subject to elevated stress and experience higher rates of mortality.

Species composition is not solely a function of climate, but is also a result of disturbance regimes. Disturbances arise from both natural and human causes. In Virginia, Native American use of fire influenced species composition for centuries before European settlement. Since European settlement, land clearing for agriculture, industrial logging, and fire use and fire exclusion have help create our current species composition. Global trade has introduced exotic diseases, pests and plants which have influenced the species mix. American chestnut and eastern hemlock have been greatly reduced; ash and oak are now threatened by recently introduced species.

Remember that the Climate Change Tree Atlas models indicate importance value potential under predicted climate scenarios and were developed using current species distributions and a combination of predicted climate, current climate, topography, soil, and land use parameters. The models do not specifically incorporate disturbance regimes or any changes in disturbance regimes (such as fire) arising from climate change or changes in human management of forests.

The work done for the Climate Change Tree Atlas has also produced predictions of importance values by species and these have been summarized by state, including Virginia. In my next post I hope to take a more detailed look at the species-specific changes and how these may affect future forest composition and health in Virginia. I hope to factor in, at least in a very subjective way, the interaction of changing disturbance regimes, exotic species and climate change in determining future forest composition and health.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus) Control in Virginia

Non-native invasive plants threaten natural ecosystems because they can replace diverse native plant communities with monocultures. Tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) - the 46th most abundant tree species in the Commonwealth - is considered by many to be the most serious non-native woody invasive plant in Virginia.

A study was initiated in early 2006 to evaluate the effectiveness of herbicide treatment in combination with different harvesting strategies. This was followed by separate tests of the same application technique earlier (March) or later (September) in the 2007 growing season.

All herbicide treatments in the tests involved a tank mix of triclopyr ester (Garlon 4) in a hydrocarbon / limonene oil carrier (JLB Oil Plus) at a ratio of 1:3 triclopyr : oil. The mix was applied using a Solo backpack sprayer. Individual Ailanthus trees were sprayed around their entire circumference approximately 12-18 inches above ground. The objective was to determine whether treatment effectiveness varied with season of application.

Mid-Season Test
Three herbicide application strategies – basal stem spray followed by chainsaw harvest one week later, basal stem spray followed by chainsaw harvest four weeks later, and chainsaw harvest followed immediately by a cut-stump treatment - were compared to harvesting with no herbicide treatment. Each of these four treatments was applied to ten stems in each of three dbh size categories ranging from 1 to 16 inches.

The pre-harvest herbicide treatments were applied on June 5-6, 2006. These stems were then harvested either one week later (June 12-14, 2006) or four weeks later (July 5-6, 2006). Also on July 5-6, 2006, the stems receiving the cut-stump treatment and those left unsprayed were harvested.

The number of stump sprouts was tallied on September 25, 2006. All of the herbicide treatments had worked well to that point; fewer than ten percent of stumps from the treated stems had resprouted, compared to nearly 70 percent of those left unsprayed. Sprouting was evaluated again in July of 2007. The earlier results appeared to be holding, as only those stumps that did not receive the herbicide treatment had sprouted, and the largest trees had the most stump sprouts (see Figure below). Since there was no resprouting even in the plots where the trees were cut a week after treatment, it appears they were dead within one week.

These results show that a mixture of Garlon 4 herbicide in an oil-based carrier applied as a basal or cut-stump spray shortly after leaf development in the spring is a good treatment for removing tree of heaven up to 16 inches in diameter.

Early- and Late-Season Tests
Results of the early and late season application are shown below.

The early-season (March 28, 2007) trial was established in Nelson County, VA. Fifty-five Ailanthus ranging from 2 to 16 inches in dbh were treated. Within two months, roughly half of the trees had died while the other half had most or all of their foliage intact and healthy. Virtually all (96%) of them had died within 6 months.

The late-season (September 12, 2007) study plots were established near Batesville in Albemarle County, VA, where 65 Ailanthus ranging from 2 to 11 inches in dbh were treated. By the end of May 2008, only 40 percent of the trees were dead; the remaining 60 percent had stunted leaves on a few branches. By August, only 18 percent of the trees still had any leaves, and it appears likely (due to their poor condition, tiny crowns, and secondary infestations with wood boring insects) that all of them will die. At this site, we have observed a (not unexpected) relationship between tree size and the amount of time required for control. Only 30 percent of trees smaller than 6 inches in dbh had any leaves in May compared to over 70 percent of the larger trees. And by August, all of the trees less than 7 inches in diameter were dead while 18 percent of those larger than 7 inches still had small tufts of stunted leaves.

Tree-of-heaven was consistently controlled by basal sprays of triclopyr ester (Garlon 4) in a hydrocarbon / limonene oil carrier (JLB Oil Plus) at a ratio of 1:3 triclopyr : oil, but the response pattern varies depending on application timing. With a March application, about half of the trees leafed out although all were dead by the end of the growing season. After a June application, the trees were already at full leaf but wilted and were dead within one week after application. Following a September application, more than half of the trees leafed out in the spring although all of the foliage was severely stunted and very few branches had any leaves at all. By August over 80 percent are completely dead and indications are that none will be alive by the end of the season.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

2008 Timber Tax Tips

The United States Forest Service - Cooperative Forestry unit has released a 2-page document called Tax Tips for Forest Landowners for the 2008 Tax Year by Linda Wang, Forest Taxation Specialist and John L. Greene, Research Forester, Southern Research Station.

This bulletin provides useful information for forest landowners, loggers, and timber businesses to prepare their 2008 tax return. More tax information can be found at the VDOF Website Tax Information page, including Agriculture Handbook 718, titled, "Forest Landowners' Guide to the Federal Income Tax.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Are Family Forest Landowners Well Informed?

Are the estimated 402,000 family owners of forest land in Virginia receiving sufficient information to sustainably manage their forests? The results of the 2006 National Woodland Owner Survey (NWOS) suggest not as less than 15% report that they have received advice on forest management and less than 4% have a forest management plan.

Owners of larger parcels tend to get more advice and this is reflected in the NWOS estimates that some form of advice was received for 38.4% of family forestland, and that 15.3% of family forestland was reported as covered by a management plan.

The NWOS also looks at the source of advice. The most common source (reported by 52% of owners receiving advice) was loggers, followed by state agency foresters (25%) and private consultants (25%). These categories are not mutually exclusive but they do suggest that many landowners are not seeking or receiving advice from professional foresters when making management decisions.

Fortunately larger parcels are more likely to receive professional advice with an estimated 25% of family forest land receiving advice from state agency foresters and 14.4% from forestry consultants (again, not mutually exclusive).

While not surprising to those in the forestry community, that fact that most family forest owners do not receive professional advice poses a major challenge in the sustainable management of our forest resources.

The NWOS is based on a survey of 444 Virginia forest landowners and contains many more details. Both the nationwide report Family Forest Owners of the United States, 2006 and the Virginia tables can be accessed online.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Economic Impact of Forestry on Virginia - $23 Billion

The forestry sector in Virginia contributes $23 billion each year to the economy and supports 144,400 jobs. This is according to a study relased on September 24, 2008 by Governor Timothy M. Kaine on the economic impact of agriculture and forestry in Virginia. Together the agriculture and forestry sectors contribute about $79 billion annually to Virginia’s economy.

The report also noted that forests provide many values not accounted for in the study. “Forests provide benefits in the form of carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat and biodiversity, flood mitigation and improved water quality. Rural scenic amenities may also improve quality of life.”

One section of the report is especially worth reading – the section discussing the opportunities and challenges facing the forestry sector. Opportunities and challenges are discussed in the areas of forest management, production technology, consumer demand, energy prices, urban population growth, government policy, and the global economy.

The report mentions the increasing contribution of plantation management to the softwood supply, while pointing out that the hardwood resource supply is threatened by the following trends:

  • increasing fragmentation and parcelization,
  • non-industrial ownership patterns (and, I would add lack of sound management), and
  • forest health challenges from invasive pests, air pollution and ecological change due to fire suppression.

On the demand side the report offers a discussion of the role of housing demand, global competitiveness and rising energy prices. While rising energy prices act to increase the cost of production, they also offer a possible increase in demand for woody biomass, whether in traditional fuel or the potential cellulosic ethanol market.

The study was led Dr. Terry Rephann of The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. The full report can be accessed at the Department of Forestry website. I would recommend its reading to anyone interested in the future of forest resources in Virginia. The forestry section starts on page 17. The Economic Impact Of Agriculture And Forestry On The Commonwealth Of Virginia

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Virginia forests are facing new threats

Dr. Chris Asaro, the Department of Forestry's Forest Health Specialist, was recently featured on a radio news report on WVTF. Reporter Sandy Hausman interviewed Chris on the new health threats facing our forests from invasive plants and pests.

Click here to listen to the report.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Foreign Ownership of Forestland on the Increase, But Not in Virginia

Thanks to Brian Fiacco and his post on the Timberland Blog for informing me of this data source on foreign land ownership in the United States. The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 requires all foreign owners to report any transactions of agricultural and forest lands within the United States. A recent report by the Farm Service Agency shows an increase of foreign forestland ownership from just over 7 million acres in 1997 to approximately 13.5 million acres in 2007. (See Figure 3 from the report.)

Much of the increase can be attributed to land sales by forest product companies to a handful of buyers from Canada (2.8 million acres in Maine) and the Netherlands (3.3 million acres in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas).

Virginia has not participated in this trend of increasing foreign forest ownership. Reported foreign ownership in Virginia declined slightly from 139,000 acres in 1997 to 116,000 acres in 2007. In 2007, 60,230 of the 116,000 acres were reported as forest land. Only 5 counties (Albemarle, Botetourt, Loudoun, Patrick and Tazewell) had more than 2,000 acres of foreign forest ownership reported.

A map from the report (Figure 2) shows the distribution of all foreign-owned agricultural and forest land by state.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gypsy Moth Defoliation on the Increase

Gypsy moth defoliation in Virginia this year has been estimated at over 112, ooo acres, an increase of 46% from last year. The most heavily impacted area was the GW National Forest in Augusta County extending into southern Rockingham County, which, combined, saw almost 43,000 acres of heavy defoliation. Another heavily impacted area for the third year in a row was northwestern Giles County, where more than 15,000 acres of forest was defoliated, most of that being in the Jefferson National Forest.

Gypsy moths were introduced into the United States via Massachusetts in 1869 and have been slowly spreading southward ever since. The first defoliation in northern Virginia was recorded in 1984 and the moths continue to spread slowly southwestward.

Dry spring weather predominated during 2005-2007, helping populations of gypsy moth to build up. This May, however, it was cool and wet at the right time, which can foster the development of a fungus disease affecting the moth population.

“In some areas, caterpillar mortality from disease appears to be quite high,” say VDOF Forest Health Specialist Dr. Chris Asaro . “The caterpillars die only when they are nearly full grown and most of the defoliation is done, so the disease doesn’t have much of an effect for this year. On the other hand, dead caterpillars mean fewer adult moths will be around this summer to lay eggs. So, next year’s defoliation could be considerably lower.”

Egg mass surveys will be completed in late summer and fall and will give a better idea of what can be expected next year.

For more information visit one or more of these sites:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Appalachian Fire Learning Network

Scientists and managers from state agencies, the US Forest Service, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) met July 8th -10th at Douthat State Park for the third workshop of the Appalachian Fire Learning Network (FLN). Hosted by the Alleghany Highlands FLN project, the workshop focused on collaborative efforts to restore forest communities dependent upon fire. Representatives attended from the three other demonstration projects in the network: Cumberland River, KY; Shawnee Forest, OH; and Southern Blue Ridge, NC. Each project reported on their planning efforts and accomplishments.

A highlight of the workshop was of course the field trip. We visited recent prescribed burns conducted by two Alleghany Highlands FLN partners, the Forest Service and TNC. Together both partners burned over 4,000 acres last year to restore pine and pine-oak woodlands. We also visited a globally rare “pine barrens” variant of the pine-oak/heath woodland communtity on Warm Springs Mountain. The challenges of restoring this fire-dependent community (likely a stand replacement regime) were a topic for much discussion.

Collaborators in the Alleghany Highlands project include TNC, USFS, Virginia Department of Forestry, Virgina Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Shenandoah National Park.

More information on the Appalachian Fire Learning Network can be found at

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Emerald Ash Borer Infestations Found in Fairfax County, Virginia

On July 7, 2008, an infestation of the emerald ash borer was discovered in dying ash trees by Andrew Brown, VDOF forester for Halifax County, while visiting family in a residential development in Herndon, Va., near the Dulles Access Road. Two days later, another infestation was discovered on the other side of Fairfax County in Springfield, just west of I-95. Both infestations appear to have begun some years ago, indicating that the wood boring insects, which have a one-year life cycle, have likely spread to many other areas. Eradication measures for this insect pest will, therefore, be very difficult to implement.

Officials from the Fairfax County Forest Pest Program, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), Virginia Dept. of Forestry, and many others, are actively searching for more evidence of infestation in Fairfax and adjacent counties. VDACS will likely soon issue a quarantine that prevents all ash material from leaving Fairfax County. Additional counties will likely be quarantined as well if and when the borer is discovered there.

The emerald ash borer is a highly destructive invasive species that has already killed millions of ash trees in Michigan and Ohio and may, ultimately, cost billions of dollars in tree removal and replacement costs. Since its discovery in 2002 in the Detroit area, it has spread to seven additional states (Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia). It is also found in Ontario, Canada.

While it spreads at the rate of about two miles per year on its own, this wood-infesting beetle can be moved great distances by human transport of infested wood products, particularly firewood. Firewood for sale in Virginia is brought in from many different states, and many out-of-state travelers bring firewood with them to go camping throughout Virginia’s state and federal lands. Most new infestations have been located either near campgrounds or adjacent to major interstate corridors.

All species of ash trees of all ages, sizes and relative health are vulnerable to the emerald ash borer. The insect is usually very difficult to detect because ash trees typically don’t show any obvious signs of infestation until one year or more after the insect has attacked the tree. By then, the insects will have moved on to attack other trees. Traps for monitoring the insect are available and have been widely distributed by VDACS. However, these traps are not attractive to the beetles from long distances and, therefore, aren’t highly effective for early detection and for precisely locating infested areas. Research for improving these monitoring tools is ongoing.

The only control measure available is to cut and chip infested trees. An effective systemic insecticide for individual tree protection has recently been approved and may be widely available within a year, but this will be very expensive and not practical for halting the progress of the insect. Over the long run, homeowners and municipalities should consider replacing ash trees with other species that are not susceptible to emerald ash borer. It is highly likely this pest will eventually become established across Virginia, although government officials, pest specialists and arborists will work together to limit and/or slow its eventual spread.

For more information on what you can do to abate the threat of exotic pests such as the Emerald Ash borer visit the Don't Move Firewood website

Friday, June 27, 2008

Virginia’s 8th Forest Survey Shows Loss of 128,000 acres

Data collected in the five years, 2002 to 2007, by Virginia Department of Forestry forest inventory crews has been analyzed and summarized by the US Forest Service as Virginia’s 8th Forest Survey.
Since the last survey published in 2002, there has been an estimated net loss of forest land of nearly 128,000 acres. Forests now cover 15.7 million acres of Virginia’s 25.4 million acres, according to the survey. With an average plot re-measurement period of 5.2 years, the net loss was at an annual rate of 25,000 acres per year, up from 20,000 acres per year in the 7th survey.

Despite the loss of forestland, positive net growth on the remaining acres has increased the total biomass by 50 million dry tons and total growing stock wood volume by 18 million cubic feet. Therefore the amount of carbon stored in Virginia’s forests has increased by nearly 6%.
Despite the loss of trees to gypsy moth defoliation, hemlock wooly adelgid, southern pine beetle and hurricane Isabel in 2003, mortality rates were lower during the 8th survey period than the previous survey period.

Regional differences in forest land loss, growth and mortality exists across Virginia and these will be addressed in future posts. If you would like to explore the 8th survey data further you can visit the USFS Forest Inventory data website for more details.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Breeding American Chestnuts for Restoration

It that’s time of year again - time to backcross chestnuts as part of the Department of Forestry’s American chestnut restoration program. At the Department’s Lesesne State Forest in Nelson County foresters bagged flowers on the first- and second-backcross trees we having growing there. The backcross trees were created by making hybrids with the blight resistant Chinese chestnut, and then pollinating the hybrids with pure American pollen. The resulting first-backcrosses were grown and then pollinated with American pollen for the second-backcross. The first-backcrosses are the trees shown in the pictures with bagged flowers.

In the next couple of weeks we will be pollinating these flowers with pollen collected from surviving American tress. The resulting nuts, and trees raised from those nuts, will be chestnuts with roughly 7/8’s or 15/16’s American genes.

The ultimate goal of these efforts is a population of chestnuts with predominantly American characteristics with blight resistance as strong as that of the Chinese chestnut. This population of chestnuts could then be used to restore chestnuts to the Virginia forest landscape.

The backcrossing work is being led by Research Forester Wayne Bowman, with assistance form various volunteers from the Department of Forestry staff. The Department, under Wayne's leadership, is also raising backcross seedlings from the American Chestnut Foundation's Meadowview Farm, and has established backcross plantings at Matthews State Forest near Galax.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Forest Health Review - Spring 2008

The current issue of the forest health review provides a detailed description of last years southern pine beetle activity as well as forecasts for this years southern pine beetle and gypsy moth activity. Also, updates on emerald ash borer, beech bark disease, the ‘Don’t Move Firewood’ campaign, and the Early Detection Rapid Response Program. An article on suburban forests details the problems posed by high deer densities and invasive species.
The full report can be downloaded at:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Effects of Establishment Methods and Initial Seedling Size on Early Northern Red Oak Performance

In early 2006 the Virginia Department of Forestry installed a test of the effects of different establishment methods and initial seedling size on northern red oak survival and growth. There were two old-field locations, one in Louisa County and the other in Washington County.

Northern red oak seedlings from the DOF’s Augusta Forestry Center were graded into three root collar diameter classes – small (0.2 inches), medium (0.3 inches), and large (0.4 inches) and planted in early March 2006 using one of five establishment treatments: 1) no treatment; 2) VisPore mulch mat plus 4-foot Tubex tree shelter; 3) spot spraying of a 2-ft radius spot using a 2% glyphosate solution; 4) 4-foot Tubex tree shelter plus 2-ft radius glyphosate spot spraying; and 5) VisPore mulch mat only.

After two years, all the trees are off to a very slow start. Even the best of the seedlings have grown only about 1.5 feet in height and 0.06 inches in groundline diameter (GLD). But it looks like the way they are established (i.e. in tubes or not) has a lot more to do with their performance than does their initial size. And it seems as if the seedlings in the tubes are spindly - although surviving better and growing in height, they aren’t growing as much in GLD.

Comparing establishment treatments shows that the Tubex shelter was essential for survival / browse protection.

The VisPore mat and spot herbicide treatment resulted in similar survival and growth. There was no effect of initial seedling size on survival. The smallest seedlings have grown less than medium or large seedlings.

Without protective shelters, most of the seedlings in the study are either dead or in the severely browsed condition seen at left.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Forest Research Review

The Research Program of the Virginia Department of Forestry published its latest edition of its Forest Research Review in April. The introduction of this publication is reproduced below.

A PDF of the report can be downloaded from:

"It’s been a busy six months since our last publication. In October, we helped to host the conference "Northern Limits – Restoring the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem in Virginia" in Wakefield. Also in October, we completed collection of our loblolly pine second generation improved seed crop from the orchard in Milledgeville, GA. The best 20 families produced in excess of 3,200 bushels of cones that yielded more than 6,000 pounds of seed for the future seedling crops from our Garland Gray Nursery. With help from the Forest Nutrition Cooperative, we began installation in December of a study of loblolly pine response to varying intensities of mid-rotation thinning in combination with fertilization. Before tree growth resumes in the spring, we will also remeasure VDOF’s mid-rotation fertilizer tests, as well as a MeadWestvaco density and fertilization trial. And just this week, we installed multiple locations of a study to look at the effects of new insecticides for controlling tipmoth in young loblolly pine.

In this issue, you’ll find summaries of recent information gathered from tests of clonal loblolly pine plantations; performance in Virginia of loblolly and longleaf pine from various geographic seed sources; early effects of biosolid applications on loblolly pine growth; growth of loblolly pine seedlings interplanted in understocked one-year-old plantations, and responses of southern red oak to crop tree release and fertilization. And we’re introducing a new feature highlighting the results of our collaborations with research cooperatives. We’ll take time in each issue to summarize recent reports from the various cooperatives in which VDOF is a member, including the Tree Improvement, Forest Nutrition, and Growth and Yield cooperatives. We hope you’ll find the information interesting and useful.

Please let us know if you have any questions or comments, and be sure to visit our Web site at to browse through all the publications, fact sheets and analytical tools from the VDOF Research Program during its more than 53-year history."

You may contact the research program staff with any questions or suggestions you may have:

Jerre Creighton, research program manager, Central Office; (434) 977-6555;

Wayne Bowman, research forester, Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest; (434) 983-2175;

Onesphore Bitoki, tree improvement forester, New Kent Forestry Center;

(804) 966-2201;

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Virginia Forest Type Map 1940

In 1940 the US Forest Service conducted the first systematic forest survey in Virginia. Survey crews put in over 31,000 ¼-acre plots spaced at 10 chains along cruise lines 10 miles apart. The data collected were used to produce tabular summaries of forest conditions and stocking. The data were also used to produce a general forest type map.

The old map is printed in green and white on an 8-1/2 by 11 inch page and is difficult to read. To create a more informative map, I scanned the original map, geo-registered it with the 2000 Census County map, and created a modern GIS vector dataset. I feel this map is much easier to use.

One of the interesting things to note are the distributions of the pine-hardwood types (loblolly-hardwood, Virginia pine-hardwood, shortleaf pine-hardwood, shortleaf – pitch pine-hardwood, and white pine-hardwood). Keep in mind that the definition of pine-hardwood stands include any stand with 25% or greater pine volume.
Click on map for a bigger image:

National Woodland Owner Survey

The National Woodland Owner Survey Table Maker is now available online.
This tool allows users to generate custom tables based on the 2002-2006 NWOS data. Users can select their state(s) of interest, the variable(s) of interest, and apply an optional size of forest holdings filter. There are over 50 variables that can be summarized including landowners' concerns, demographics, forest holding characteristics, future intentions, leasing, forest management practices, collection of non-timber forest products, owner type, program participation, ownership objectives, and timber harvesting.
This tool can be accessed through at:
The latest estimate for family forest owners in Virginia is 402,000 (standard error +/- 58,000) with more than ½ of these (220,000 +/- 56,000) owning less than 10 acres of forestland. The 48,000 (+/-7,000) owners that own 50 or more acres control over 67% of the family-owned forest.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pre-blight chestnut distribution

I was asked recently about the amount and distribution of American chestnut before the blight. To help answer this question I went to the report on the first scientific survey done across Virginia, Forest Survey Release No. 11, Virginia’s Forests, 1942 written by T. Lotti and T.C. Evans.

The data for this survey was collected from 31,400 quarter-acre plots established at intervals of one-eight mile on compass lines 10 miles apart. The report contains summary statistics for the three physiographic regions of Virginia: Mountains, Piedmont and Costal Plain.

Since the blight had killed almost all standing chestnuts before 1940, the document reports only dead chestnuts. No significant volume was reported for the Coastal Plain but the dead chestnut volume reported for the mountains was 16% of the total volume, and 25% of the volume in trees greater than 20 inches in diameter. In the Piedmont the total dead chestnut volume was less than 5% but nearly 22% of the volume in trees greater than 20 inches in diameter.

The map below has a dot for every plot that contained at least 2 sound or cull chestnut trees 10-inches dbh or greater. Some real differences in certain counties are apparent and some are a bit surprising to me.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Southern Forest Futures Project

I attended the Blacksburg, VA public input meeting for the Southern Forest Futures Project on February 26. This project is a follow-up to the very informative Southern Forest Resource Assessment published in 2002, and is being led by the same US Forest Service team of John Greis and David Wear. The project promises to be very useful for those interested in the health and sustainable management of Virginia's forests.

The futures project will develop a number of scenarios. Each scenario will represent possible states of the various forces of change (biological, climatic and human) for forests in the South. Land use and forest conditions will be forecast under each scenario. Analysis will address the implications of these forecasts on ecological sub-regions within the South.

The forests of Virginia fall within the Coastal Plain, Southern Appalachian Piedmont, and the Appalachian Mountains/Cumberland Plateau subregions being used in the analysis.

For more info, visit these websites.
Southern Forest Futures Project
Souther Forest Resource Assessment