Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shenandoah National Park to Ban Outside Firewood

The Emerald Ash Borer is responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of ash trees in the U.S. and is spread by the movement of infested firewood. Beginning March 1, 2010, persons entering Shenandoah National Park (SNP) may not bring firewood or wood scraps. Visitors must gather or purchase firewood within the park. Learn more on the SNP Web site at

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gypsy Moth Defoliation Decreases Nearly 75 Percent in Virginia

Officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) say that the gypsy moth declined significantly this year. The insect defoliated 29,048 acres in the Commonwealth, a substantial decrease from the 112,340 acres damaged in 2008. Nearly 12,288 acres of defoliation occurred across the George Washington – Jefferson National Forest, much of it close to the West Virginia state line. An additional 7,473 acres affected Shenandoah National Park. Unlike last year, a majority of the defoliation was classified as “light.”

Wet weather is credited with reducing the impact in Virginia. VDOF Forest Health Specialist Dr. Chris Asaro said, “Gypsy moth caterpillars often succumb to disease caused by a fungus and a virus, especially when cool, wet weather occurs during their feeding period in May. In most areas of the state, precipitation occurred every few days during the spring, and the fungus thrived in these conditions.” Caterpillar mortality meant that there weren’t mature caterpillars to feed on leaves, thereby reducing defoliation this year, and fewer adults to lay eggs for next year.

“So, next year’s defoliation levels could continue this downward trend,” Asaro added.

While overall defoliation levels were lower, intense defoliation pressure in recent years has resulted in locally heavy mortality of oak trees. Some of the areas with the heaviest mortality include Giles, Roanoke, and Augusta counties. In southwest Roanoke County, the forests along Poor Mountain and Bent Mountain have been devastated by gypsy moth since 2005; thousands of acres of dead oak trees cover much of this landscape. Chestnut oak growing on poor soils tends to be the predominant species affected, but many other tree species are also susceptible.

John Miller, VDOF’s director of resource protection, said, “The fire danger in these areas is significantly greater due to the high number of dead trees. Over time, the large standing dead trees also create special dangers for our firefighters, making an already tough job even more dangerous.”

Read more of the VDOF news release or visit the VDOF Forest Health section for more information.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Harvests on Virginia National Forests

A just published study by the US Forest Service examines fluctuations in timber harvests on southern National Forests. Looking at the results for Virginia shows:
  • The volume contained within the National Forests within Virginia represent about 11% of the total volume found in all Virginia forests.
  • Removals (harvests for the most part) from National Forests comprise about 2.6% of removals from all Virginia forests.
  • Reported harvests from Virginia National Forests show a steady decline since 1991 in volumes harvested. Volume harvested in 2006 was less than 1/4 of the amount harvested in 1991. (see chart)
As the study concludes, the decline in timber harvesting reflects the change in National Forest System objectives from serving as a source of timber supply to serving as reservoirs for biodiversity, recreation, aesthetics, and other uses.

(chart developed from tables in the USFS report)
For further details see:
Oswalt, S. N., T. G. Johnson, M. Howell, and J. W. Bentley. Fluctuations in national forest timber harvest and removals: the southern regional perspective. Resour. Bull. SRS–148. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 30 p.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Growing The Future Of American Chestnut

The Virginia Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation will hold a program in Charlottesville on Saturday, 1 pm - 3 pm , April 16th, on the future of the American Chestnut.

Special speakers include the new TACF President and CEO Bryan Burhans,and Phil Rutter, Founding President of TACF and Founder of Badgersett Research Corporation. State Forester Carl Garrison will open the meeting and I will give a presentation on the geography of Chestnut.

The meeting is free and open to the public at the Virginia Department Of Forestry Headquarters, 900 Natural Resources Drive, Suite 800,Charlottesville, VA 22903. Hope to see you there - John
For more info visit the Virginia TACF website or the national TACF website

Sunday, April 19, 2009

IUFRO Issues Report on Adaptation of Forests to Climate Change

On April 22nd the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) will officially release a report titled "Adaptation of Forests and People to Climate Change – A Global Assessment". The report was developed by a panel of 35 leading forestry scientists, and provides a detailed synthesis of recent research, modeling efforts, and expert opinion for each of the major forest biomes. The report's main conclusion - the carbon regulating roles of forests, are at risk of being reduced by climate change. Forests store 1/2 of the terrestrial carbon and currenty sequester 1/4 of carbon emissions, and thus are a major driver in the global carbon cycle.

Virginia forests are generally expected to see productivity gains from longer growing seasons and elevated CO2. However, species and forest types are expected to shift northward, high mountain forest types may be replaced, new invasive species may pose problems, and stresses from climate change may increase mortality. Increased fire frequency and intensity from more frequent droughts are expected in the states to our south and the effect may extend into portions of Virginia.

A few key points from the global level analysis are summarized below.

The observed effects of recent climate change have been greatest in boreal forests. Increased temperature and longer growing seasons are expected to expand boreal forests north towards the pole and increase growth. On the negative side, increases in fire frequency and epidemic insect outbreaks are also expected, possibly negating any increase in carbon stocks from growth and expansion.

Temperate forests are expected to be the most resilient of the major biomes, especially the humid temperate forests, such as those in eastern North America. Elevated CO2 and longer growing seasons are expected to increase productivity and carbon sequestration. Concerns are raised about biodiversity impacts, the loss of rare forest communities, the spread of invasive species, and stresses to forests as species shifts lag behind climate change.

Increases in fire frequency and intensity have already been observed and attributed to climate change in the semi-arid temperate forests of Western North America, and they are expected to continue. Insect pest epidemics, like the current mountain pine beetle epidemic , are also expected to increase. The net effect may be a reduction in carbon stocks and possibly forest area.

Subtropical forests are expected to experience increased drought, fire extent and fire frequency. Climate change is seen as a major threat to the many subtropical biodiversity hotspots.

Tropical forests are expected to experience productivity gains wherever sufficient moisture is available. Declines in forest area are expected in seasonal dry or otherwise drier tropical areas. Substantial biodiversity losses are expected in the tropics. At the higher end of possible temperature increases, biodiversity losses, mortality and other stresses may negate productivity gains and increase are declines.

Two groups of forest types are noted to be at particular risk: high altitude forests, which have no place to migrate; and mangrove forests, at risk of sea-level rise.

The report argues that sustainable forest management is essential to maximize the ability of forests to adapt to climate change, and, to minimize the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change.

An executive summary and the full report can be downloaded from the IUFRO website.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Faster Growth for Loblolly Pines from MCP

The Virginia Department of Forestry is trying a new technique to increase the productivity of the loblolly pine seedlings it provides to landowners for reforestation. With mass controlled pollination (MCP) we select the fastest growing, straightest trees in our seed orchard; bag the female flowers before pollen flight; collect pollen from other fast-growing, straight trees; and apply the pollen to bagged flowers when they are receptive. The resulting seeds are thus full-siblings, i.e. have the same mother and father.

The amount of genetic gain from MCP depends upon the performance rating of the parents. We anticipate obtaining MCP seedlings with performance ratings in the range of 40-50 for volume. In comparison, our current second-generation, open-pollinated seedlings have a rating of 25. In simple terms, we are hoping to nearly double the genetic growth advantage with MCP.

MCP is a logistical challenge. We plan to put as many as 5,000 bags on up to 200 trees. Each bag will receive two applications of pollen. Then the bags will need to be removed. The cones will need to be protected and then collected in the Fall of 2010. Since the trees are 20-30 feet high, this translates to a lot of manual labor and bucket truck time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Forest Health Highlights (2008)

As part of our annual reporting to the U.S. Forest Service, we put together a “highlights” document to summarize any notable changes in conditions within the Commonwealth for the past year. This will be posted to the U.S. Forest Service website within the coming weeks (link.)

Forest Health Highlights

Forest Influences and Programs

New infestations of the emerald ash borer (EAB) were detected in July in Fairfax County in three separate locations spanning the breadth of the County. The source of these infestations could not be determined. Fairfax and adjacent counties and municipalities (Fauquier, Prince William, Loudoun, Arlington, Manassas, Manassas Park) were quarantined by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It appears the infestations are some years old, making it likely EAB has spread to other locations that are as of yet undetected.

Gypsy Moth
Scattered moderate to heavy infestations have appeared this year, with state-wide defoliation totaling 112,343 acres, over 82,000 acres of which were on National Forest land. These scattered infestations were present in 20 counties from Northern Virginia down the Appalachians and scattered pockets of the Blue Ridge to the Blacksburg-Roanoke area. A vast area of over 42,000 acres covered the northwest and southwest corner of Augusta and Rockingham counties, respectively, most of which was within the George Washington National Forest. Tree mortality is likely after this second year of defoliation for many locations. Some areas have seen their third or fourth successive year of heavy defoliation.

Southern pine beetle (SPB) numbers remain low in most places based on the spring trapping survey results and relatively few reports. A few hotspot areas during the last couple of years seemed to have stabilized somewhat. In total, 26 spots amounting to 1,078 trees (average 41 trees per spot) acres across 9 counties were detected. No spots were reported on federal land and no counties were in outbreak status. Affected counties were concentrated in the south-central Piedmont or southwestern Coastal Plain and included Accomack, Amelia, Caroline, Chesterfield, Cumberland, Goochland, Greensville, Halifax and Nottoway Counties. The Virginia Department of Forestry has implemented a Southern Pine Beetle Prevention Program with federal funding and support which focuses on thinning pine stands to reduce hazard and provides cost-share assistance to landowners.

The hemlock wooly adelgid continues to cause significant hemlock decline in many areas, although trees in some areas that have supported infestations for many years are still hanging on. Despite the continued spread into most areas of the range in Virginia, hemlock mortality levels have stabilized over the last five years. The release of predators of the adelgid is on-going in Virginia and other states and offers some long-term hope of reducing the impacts of the adelgid on the hemlock resource.

A widespread outbreak of tulip tree scale continued for a second year along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Nelson County. Due to drought and early leaf senescence, it was difficult to accurately assess the extent of damage, but it probably spanned thousands of acres. An accurate assessment from aerial surveys was attempted in the spring but, with the exception of two large clearcuts in response to the outbreak, it was difficult to see damage from the air.

An unusual hail storm occurred on June 16th in the northern Piedmont that was so intense that roads quickly become covered in ice and snow plows had to be brought out. Moderate to severe damage occurred on scattered trees over an area of 27,000 acres. This damage was surveyed aerially. See November, 2008 Virginia Forest Health Review.

Oak and other hardwood decline continues to be widespread throughout the Commonwealth due to drought and past storm events. After an unusually high incidence of oak decline in the Coastal Plain during 2005, particularly among yard and landscape trees, decline and mortality continued but leveled off significantly. It is thought that accumulated stress due to the drought of 1998-2002 followed by the flooding rains, storms and hurricanes of the 2003-2004 season lead to unusually heavy decline, particularly among upland oak species in flood-prone areas. These widespread stress factors led to tree mortality precipitated by numerous biotic agents, including Armillaria, Hypoxylon canker, ambrosia beetles, two-lined chestnut borer, oak carpenter worm, and red-oak borer. This mortality has continued through 2008 and has been likely exacerbated in some areas by severe drought conditions this year and during the past three years. The most recent FIA survey data did in fact detect a net loss of hardwood volume in the southeast corner of Virginia.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Virginia's 2008 Wildfires

The Department of Forestry recorded 1,322 wildland fires that burned an estimated 25,704 acres in Virginia in 2008. Virginia saw the worst fire day in memory on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2008. High winds across the state whipped up 354 fires that burned more than 16,000 acres. For more information see the Department's press release.

The spring wildfire season starts February 15th and runs through April 30.