Some interesting news from Compass Live.

Welcome to the weekly updates to CompassLive, the online science magazine of the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS). Please forward this update to others who might be interested and encourage them to sign up for their own updates or RSS feeds at the CompassLive website.


Follow SRS and CompassLive on Twitter: @usfs_srs

Shifting Rainfall Patterns May Change Southern Appalachian Forest Structure

Small summer storms make a big difference

by Zoё Hoyle, SRS Science Delivery

Posted on August 11, 2015 by Zoe Hoyle


A new research study by U.S. Forest Service scientists finds that changes in rainfall patterns in the southern Appalachians due to climate change could reduce growth in six hardwood tree species common to the region. The findings have implications for forest managers in the Southeast, where climate variability (more extreme events or changes in precipitation distribution) could cause major shifts in forest composition and structure.

The study, recently published online in the journal Global Change Biology, evaluated climate-driven patterns of growth for six dominant hardwood tree species in the southern Appalachians in relation to their topographic positions on slopes or in coves. They found that diffuse-porous species (maple, poplar, birch) growing on dry sites were the most sensitive to climate, while the ring-porous species (oak) were the least sensitive.

More importantly, they found that growth in all the species studied, regardless of whether they were positioned on dry or wet sites, was more sensitive to how precipitation was distributed rather than to the total amount of precipitation. Very small storms in the growing season were surprisingly important in maintaining forest growth. Read more in the CompassLive article.

There’s More to Restoration Than Planting Trees

The importance of groundcover species in longleaf pine ecosystems

by Zoё Hoyle, SRS Science Delivery

Posted on August 13, 2015 by Zoe Hoyle


Discussions about longleaf pine restoration tend to focus on planting seedlings, managing hardwood competition, and using prescribed fire, but ecosystem restoration also involves bringing back the groundcover that makes longleaf pine forests some of the richest plant communities on our planet. Longleaf pine forests now occupy less than 3 percent of an original range estimated at around 92 million acres. Sites with both old-growth longleaf pine trees (defined as over a century old) and undisturbed understory are very rare — usually small fragments of land that were always too wet, too dry, or too inconvenient to farm or convert to pine plantations.

Second-growth stands (70 to 100 years old) with intact ground layers are more common. The largest blocks of this relatively healthy longleaf forest are found in national forests and on military installations, some managed with regular cycles of prescribed fire. On both private industry lands and military bases across the South, forest managers are expanding longleaf stands by planting seedlings in areas previously planted in loblolly or slash pine — areas where the groundcover species of the original longleaf forest may have completely disappeared. Read more in the CompassLive article.

Planting Promise for Hemlocks

Volunteers help plant insectary to raise predator beetles

by Zoё Hoyle, SRS Science Delivery

Posted on August 12, 2015 by Zoe Hoyle

On August 3, 15 young volunteers and U.S. Forest Service researchers worked in the hot sun at the Bent Creek Experimental Forest near Asheville, North Carolina, planting eastern hemlock tree seedlings for a biocontrol insectary. Participants from Boy Scout Troop 91 were joined by friends and classmates from area schools and two parents in planting 88 trees on about an acre of land to rear Laricobius osakensis, a predator beetle that feeds on the hemlock woolly adelgid. Read more in the CompassLive article.

Headquartered in Asheville, NC, the Southern Research Station is comprised of more than 120 scientists and several hundred support staff who conduct natural resource research in 20 locations across 13 southern states (Virginia to Texas). The Station’s mission is “…to create the science and technology needed to sustain and enhance southern forest ecosystems and the benefits they provide.” Learn more about the Southern Research Station.




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