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.