6. A Sustainable World

Towards a Sustainable World

2021-05-21. [https://eos.org/features/growing-equity-in-city-green-space] - Growing Equity in City Green Space. Source: By Kimberly M. S. Cartier, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: As the COVID-19 pandemic stretched into the summer months of 2020, people around the world began to flock to outdoor green spaces in and around cities. ...However, not all city residents have the same access, geographically and historically, to nearby green space. ...Developing new urban green space—places covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation—and infrastructure that works with it is a priority in many cities these days. But experts agree that the solution is more complicated than simply planting more trees in certain spots. Done right, adding new green space in and around our cities can improve human health, revitalize ecosystems, and boost a region’s economy. Done wrong, it can worsen existing socioeconomic and ecological problems or even create new ones. ...Green spaces in and around cities, collectively known as urban forests, can mitigate regional and local flooding from stormsreduce water scarcityimprove air and water quality, regulate temperature, and aid soil nutrient cycling, all while sequestering carbon. ...Environmental justice affirms that all people have the right to land, water, and air that are clean and safe; it requires environmental policy that is free from discrimination and bias and is based on mutual respect and justice for all people. In assessing whether all residents of a city have equitable access to urban forests, the first question to answer is, Where does the city have green space? To tackle this on a citywide scale, most researchers either collect satellite or aerial imagery, which can measure down to only a certain scale, or conduct laborious on-the-ground surveys.... 

2021-02-11. [https://eos.org/features/community-forests-prepare-for-climate-change] - Community Forests Prepare for Climate Change. Source: By Courtney L. Peterson, Leslie A. Brandt, Emile H. Elias, and Sarah R. Hurteau, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The importance of urban trees is often overlooked. In the United States, community forests save an estimated $18.3 billion annually by providing ecosystem services like air and water pollution removal, carbon sequestration, carbon storage, energy savings for buildings, heat reduction, and avoided stormwater runoff [Nowak and Greenfield, 2018]. But urban trees do more than provide these ecological necessities. Urban trees provide human health benefits by promoting increased physical activity, improved mental health, enhanced community walkability, and improved safety of public transit [Nesbitt et al., 2017]. For example, attractive trees and landscaping encourage increased social interaction among neighbors and create a sense of ownership and safety. ...However, many locales are feeling the heat as urban, or community, forests...struggle against a multitude of stressors stemming from climate change.... 


2021-05-21. [https://eos.org/agu-news/growing-healthy-city-canopies] - Growing Healthy City Canopies. Source: By Heather Goss, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: In our June issue of Eos, we look at the growing body of research on this vital city greenery. Courtney L. Peterson and colleagues walk us through the canopies of three U.S. cities—Albuquerque, N.M.; Austin, Texas; and Durango, Colo.—and how local government is starting to work with researchers to better manage and adapt their green spaces. As climate change exacerbates the urban heat island effect, among other issues, protecting local trees and their cooling benefits is essential....

2021-04-30. [https://www.savetheredwoods.org/press-releases/research-confirms-significant-role-of-redwood-forests-in-californias-climate-fight/] - Research from Save the Redwoods League and Humboldt State University Confirms Significant Role of Redwood Forests in California’s Climate Fight. Source: Save the Redwoods League and Humboldt State University. Excerpt: Newly published research from Save the Redwoods League and Humboldt State University (HSU) confirms the exceptionally large role that redwood forests can play in California’s strategy to address climate change. The research demonstrates that old-growth coast redwood forests store more carbon per acre than any other forest type. ...The findings cap 11 years of research through the League’s Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative (RCCI), which has also revealed that younger second-growth coast redwood forests grow quickly enough to result in substantial carbon storage in a relatively short period. This makes a strong case for investing in the restoration of previously logged redwood forests. ...Prior to industrial logging, California had more than 2 million acres of ancient redwoods, but now only about 113,000 acres of old-growth redwood forests remain, largely protected in parks and preserves. According to Sillett’s team, there can be up to 890 metric tons of carbon (1 metric ton = 2,205 pounds) stored per acre of old-growth redwood forest, which is the estimated equivalent of taking about 700 passenger vehicles off the road for a year. In place of all that lost old-growth forest now stand about 1.5 million acres of younger second-growth redwood forests. ...While these regrowing forests don’t match old-growth forests in terms of total biomass or carbon storage per acre, they grow extremely quickly and recover fire- and decay-resistant carbon storage capacity fast. In a study published last year, the RCCI team found that in 150 years, fast-growing second-growth redwood forests can accumulate 40 percent as much biomass and store 30 percent as much carbon as the original old-growth in their decay-resistant heartwood. Further, some redwood forests that were logged in the mid-1800s have already accumulated as much as 339 metric tons of carbon per acre—the equivalent of taking about 270 passenger vehicles off the road for one year. This level of carbon storage has profound implications when extended across 1.5 million acres of second-growth redwood forests.... 

2021-02-11. Community Forests Prepare for Climate Change. By Courtney L. Peterson, Leslie A. Brandt, Emile H. Elias, and Sarah R. Hurteau, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: ...many locales are feeling the heat as urban, or community, forests—defined by the U.S. Forest Service as “the aggregate of all public and private vegetation and green space within a community that provide a myriad of environmental, health and economic benefits”—struggle against a multitude of stressors stemming from climate change. Forest pests and diseases are expanding their ranges, for example, and heat, megadroughts, and shifts in the amounts and timing of precipitation are changing water availability—all contributing to a looming urban tree crisis. ...The importance of urban trees is often overlooked. In the United States, community forests save an estimated $18.3 billion annually by providing ecosystem services like air and water pollution removal, carbon sequestration, carbon storage, energy savings for buildings, heat reduction, and avoided stormwater runoff [Nowak and Greenfield, 2018]. But urban trees do more than provide these ecological necessities. Urban trees provide human health benefits by promoting increased physical activity, improved mental health, enhanced community walkability, and improved safety of public transit [Nesbitt et al., 2017]. For example, attractive trees and landscaping encourage increased social interaction among neighbors and create a sense of ownership and safety. ...Some cities, such as those highlighted below, have started to address community forest vulnerability through adaptation actions, but examples are few. [Albuquerque, N.M., Austin, Texas, Durango, Colo.].... [https://eos.org/features/community-forests-prepare-for-climate-change]

2021-02-11.  The Great Green Wall could save Africa. But can the massive forestry effort learn from past mistakes? By Rachel Cernansky, Science Magazine. Excerpt: After returning home from college to northwest Cameroon in 2004, Tabi Joda felt a sense of profound loss. Trees that once bore fruit, provided medicine, and created shade had been cut down. Rich soils had turned to dust. “The land I used to know as a forest was no longer a forest,” he recalls. Joda, a business consultant, got to work, calling on what he’d learned in school and from local knowledge passed down over generations. He collected seeds, started a tree nursery, and launched an agroforestry initiative that enlisted local people in planting trees. They chose species that provided food and timber, supported livelihoods, and helped wildlife thrive. The effort soon spread to nearby communities. And Joda ultimately became a vocal advocate for an even bigger dream: the Great Green Wall, which aims to transform the lives of some 100 million people by planting a mosaic of trees, shrubs, and grasses along a corridor stretching some 8000 kilometers across Africa by 2030 (see map ,...). ...the African Union first launched the Great Green Wall in 2007.... Made up of local efforts across 11 countries, it has reached just 16% of its overall goal to vegetate 150 million hectares. But last month, the project—which analysts estimate will cost at least $30 billion—got a major boost: a pledge of $14 billion in funding over the next 5 years from a coalition of international development banks and governments. The money is meant to accelerate the effort to sustain livelihoods, conserve biodiversity, and combat desertification and climate change, French President Emmanuel Macron said in announcing the pledges on 11 January.... [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/02/great-green-wall-could-save-africa-can-massive-forestry-effort-learn-past-mistakes]

2020-10-07. New England’s Forests Are Sick. They Need More Tree Doctors. By Marguerite Holloway, The New York Times. Excerpt: “I would never have anticipated how fast things are declining,” said Melissa LeVangie, who works for Shelter Tree, a tree care supply company, and is tree warden, or caretaker, for the town of Petersham in central Massachusetts. As climate change accelerates, the trees in the Eastern forests of the United States are increasingly vulnerable. For many arborists, the challenges facing trees are reshaping and expanding the nature of their work. Many said they are spending more time on tree removal than ever before — taking down dead or unhealthy trees, or trees damaged or felled by storms. ...Many species — including ash, oak, maple, hemlock, elm, and white pine — have their own particular pest or disease threatening them. And there are more pests and diseases on the horizon, including insects like the spotted lanternfly and infections that weakened trees cannot fight off. ...Many trees are also stressed by bouts of drought or intense rain, by rising temperatures and changing season length, by extreme weather — by all the various manifestations of climate change — as well as by air pollution and by invasive plants choking or displacing them.... [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/07/climate/new-england-trees-forests.html

2020-10-04. ‘David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet’ Review: Ruin and Regrowth. By Natalia Winkelman, The New York Times. Excerpt: The majestic documentary “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet” opens with its title subject standing in a deserted location. It’s the territory around the Chernobyl nuclear plant, a once buzzing area that was evacuated after human error rendered it uninhabitable. ...Calling the film (streaming on Netflix) his “witness statement” for the environment, David Attenborough goes on to trace his more than 60-year career as a naturalist, mapping how steeply the planet’s biodiversity has degenerated before him. Global air travel was new when he began his work, and footage of him as a young producer encountering exotic flora and fauna lends a moving, even haunting, note to his plea to restore ecological balance. ...upsetting is the loss of rain forests, showcased through the stark cutoff between flourishing vegetation and uniform rows of oil palms planted for profit. Such cinematic juxtapositions are persuasive: A dying planet is an ugly one, while healthy ecosystems please the eye and the earth. ...The most devastating sequence finds Attenborough charting the disasters we face in future decades — global crises that he, as a man now in his 90s, will not experience. Yet he finds hope by extrapolating small successes. Sustainable farming in the Netherlands has made the country one of the worldwide leaders in food exports. ...The film’s grand achievement is that it positions its subject as a mediator between humans and the natural world. Life cycles on, and if we make the right choices, ruin can become regrowth.... [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/04/movies/david-attenborough-a-life-on-our-planet-review.html

2019-07-04. Adding 1 billion hectares of forest could help check global warming. By Alex Fox, Science Magazine.

2018-11-20. Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe. By Abrahm Lustgarten, The New York Times. 

2018-09-25. Scenes From a Charred Forest, Bursting With New Life. Photos by Elias Williams, text by Andy Newman, The New York Times. 

2016-09-26. How Small Forests Can Help Save the Planet. By  Erica Goode, The New York Times. 

2013-12-03. NASA iPad Application Shows Earth Changing Before Your Eyes.   Excerpt:  Human activities, a changing climate and natural disasters are rapidly altering the face of our planet. Now, with NASA's Images of Change iPad application, users can get an interactive before-and-after view of these changes. ...Some ... have suffered a disaster, such as a fire or tsunami, or illustrate the effects of human activities, such as dam building or urban growth. Others document impacts of climate change such as persistent drought and rapidly receding glaciers. "Images of Change" gives users an astronaut's or Earth explorer's view of the changes occurring on our planet and demonstrates the important role NASA plays in contributing to the long-term understanding of Earth," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science in Washington.  ...Viewers can look at the images side-by-side or overlay them using a slider bar to travel from past to present. ...The Images of Change iPad app is available as a free download at: http://go.nasa.gov/1bE3osn [through] http://climate.nasa.gov.... http://www.nasa.gov/press/2013/december/nasa-ipad-application-shows-earth-changing-before-your-eyes-0/. NASA RELEASE 13-356.

2013-10-15.  Climate change affecting North American forests, researchers find.    Excerpt: Climate change is making North American forests more vulnerable to insects and disease but is helping some trees grow faster and increase their resistance to pests, a team of researchers from Dartmouth University said Monday. Researchers reviewed almost 500 scientific studies dating to the 1950s ... as part of the National Climate Assessment in 2012. The researchers said that higher temperatures and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are boosting tree growth, which could have a positive impact on economies that depend on timber and wood pulp, and could help pull carbon out of the ecosystem. ....Some areas devastated by insects or disease may be restored because of continued warming, with insects dying off because temperatures are too high for them, Weed said. But warming also allows insects to flourish and exaggerates their natural role in keeping forests healthy, the researchers found. Various types of bark beetles, for example, are doing more damage than expected, they said. ... “Mountain and southern pine beetles are attacking hosts farther north and at higher elevations than historic norms,” in part because warmer winters are allowing insects to survive. ...droughts and fires also have been linked to climate change.... http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_24313791/climate-change-affecting-north-american-forests-researchers-find. By Lenny Bernstein, The Washington Post.

2013 January 24.  How Climate Change Could Wipe Out the Western Forests. By Sarah Garland, The Atlantic. Excerpt:  ...Last year was the hottest on record in the United States, and the fall weather was unseasonably warm in the Rockies. The forest was weakened by prolonged drought; that November was the driest ever recorded in the park. An epidemic of bark beetles, which thrive in warmer conditions, was already in the process of killing off thousands of trees. The area's first heavy snow came unusually late, in mid-December, and only then did the fire slow down. Jason Sibold, a geographer who studies forest fires at Colorado State University and who has spent time exploring the canyon where the fire started, says scientists can't say for sure that global warming was a direct cause. Pinning one extreme event to climate change is impossible to do. "But that Forest Canyon site, I never thought I was going to see that burn, much less in December," he said. "That's just shocking."….

2012 Jun 25. Goodbye to Mountain Forests?. By Hillary Rosner, The NY Times. Excerpt: When the smoke finally clears and new plant life pokes up from the scorched earth after the wildfires raging in the southern Rockies, what emerges will look radically different than what was there just a few weeks ago. According to Craig Allen, a research ecologist with the United States Geological Survey in Los Alamos, N.M., forests in the region have not been regenerating after the vast wildfires that have been raging for the last decade and a half…forests are burning into oblivion and grasslands and shrub lands are taking their place. “Rising temperature is going to drive our forests off the mountains…These forests did not evolve with this type of fire,” said Dr. Allen. “Fire was a big deal in New Mexico, but it was a different kind of fire.” The result, he said, is that the species that now live there — ponderosa pines, piñon, juniper — cannot regenerate, and new species are moving in to take their place....

2012 Jan 17.  China's Reforestation Programs: Big Success or Just an Illusion? By Jon R. Luoma, Yale Environment 360.  Excerpt:  …Scientists and conservation groups are beginning to voice concerns about the long-term viability of significant aspects of China’s reforestation push. Of greatest concern is the planting of large swaths of non-native tree species, many of which perish because their water needs are too great for the arid regions in which they are planted. China also is cultivating large monoculture plantations that harbor little biodiversity...In what could be a hopeful turn, China’s State Forestry Administration has indicated that it has gotten the message. The nation’s lead forestry agency has begun collaborating on projects aimed specifically at restoring native species….

2011 Dec 18. Old-growth trees saved in Nantahala National Forest.  Ashville Citizen-Times.  Excerpt: Logging in an old-growth section of the Nantahala National Forest will be limited under an agreement between environmentalists and the U.S. Forest Service....
...The agency agreed to abandon two sections of the Haystack project containing trees that are 100-200 years old, the Southern Environmental Law Center said last week.The Forest Service also scaled back the length of a planned road, which the group said would reduce the project’s long-term footprint in the forest...[For information about North Carolina's National Forests from the USDA, see: http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/nfsnc/about-forest]

2011 April 29. Azavea Launches PhillyTreeMap.org, a Web Application to Inventory Philadelphia's Urban Forest. San Francisco Chronical. Excerpt: Azavea, a geospatial analysis (GIS) software development company announces the launch of PhillyTreeMap (www.PhillyTreeMap.org), a wiki-inspired web application that enables the public to collaborate with the project partners -- City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission - to map, inventory, and preserve the Philadelphia urban forest….
…While the initial database load has resulted in over 175,000 trees in the system, public help is needed to ensure the data is both current and complete. With a free registration, users can add trees to the system, edit or add to existing tree records, and upload tree images. All changes are immediately visible in the system, but a group of trained administrators will also review changes and new entries to ensure accuracy….

2011 March 28. Forest Service adopts climate-change 'scorecard.' By Bob Berwyn, Summit County Citizens Voice. Excerpt: Recognizing that climate change calls for a coordinated response, the U.S. Forest Service is implementing a climate change road map to guide the agency’s efforts in the face of potentially staggering impacts to the landscapes and watersheds it manages across the country….
…The scorecard approach will help field-level rangers plan actions that fit into a broader scope of landscape-level action aimed at addressing climate change, rather than relying on “random acts of conservation,” said regional agency planners familiar with the effort….

2010 July 20. NASA RELEASE: 10-173: First Map of Global Forest Heights Created From NASA Data. Excerpt: WASHINGTON -- Scientists have produced a first-of-its kind map of the height of the world's forests by combining data from three NASA satellites. The map will help scientists build an inventory of how much carbon the world's forests store and how fast that carbon cycles through ecosystems and back into the atmosphere.
…The primary data… used was from a laser technology called lidar on the ICESat. Lidar can capture vertical slices of forest canopy height by shooting pulses of light at the ground and observing how much longer it takes for light to bounce back from the surface than from the top of the forest canopy. Since lidar can penetrate the top layer of forest canopy, it provides a detailed snapshot of the vertical structure of a forest.
…Measuring canopy height has implications for efforts to estimate the amount of carbon tied up in Earth's forests and for explaining what absorbs 2 billion tons of "missing" carbon each year. Humans release about 7 billion tons of carbon annually, mostly in the form of carbon dioxide. Of that, 3 billion tons end up in the atmosphere and 2 billion tons in the ocean. It's unclear where the remaining 2 billion tons of carbon go, although scientists suspect forests capture and store much of it as biomass through photosynthesis.
…Sassan Saatchi, senior scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., already has started combining the height data with forest inventories to create biomass maps for tropical forests. Global biomass inventories will eventually be used to improve climate models and guide policymakers on carbon management strategies.

2010 Feb 1. Study Finds a Tree Growth Spurt. By Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times. Excerpt: Forests in the eastern United States appear to be growing faster in response to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a new study has found.
The study centered on trees in mixed hardwood stands on the western edge of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland that are representative of much of the those on the Eastern Seaboard.
All are growing two to four times as fast as normal, according to a study published in Tuesday’s issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
After controlling for other variables, scientists concluded that the change resulted largely from the increase in carbon dioxide, a major factor in climate change....
Geoffrey G. Parker, a co-author of the paper and an ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md., said his research indicated that the local forests were adapting to the rise in carbon dioxide by absorbing more....
But Dr. Parker said it was unclear whether the trend could be sustained. “We don’t think this can persist for too long because other limiting factors will come into play, like water availability and soil nutrients,” he said....

Winter 2010. Can Forests Save the Planet? By Patricia Marshall Forest Magazine, Winter 2010. [after winter 2010, click back issues] In the 1980s, as chainsaws chewed their way ever deeper into old-growth forests, the movement to save and preserve forests in the United States claimed the national spotlight.
... in the early 1990s the idea that forests played a vital role in the carbon cycle of the planet was barely on the radar screen for preservationists. A handful of scientists understood the concept, of course, but saving the forests for their carbon-storing ability was hardly center stage in the fight to retain the last of the old growth. As it turns out, what's been good for the forests has been good for the planet, too. While scientists wrestle with how to mitigate the effects of ever-increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, forests have become a significant factor in the carbon cycle equation. According to the World Resources Institute, forest soils and vegetation store 40 percent of all carbon in the terrestrial biosphere, and deforestation generates about 20 percent of human-caused carbon emissions, second only to fossil fuel combustion.
...In the following section, we tackle some of the issues surrounding forests and carbon sequestration. In "To Thin or To Store", Joshua Zaffos examines the vexing decisions facing forest managers as they deal with the tradeoffs between forest health and maximum carbon storage. Late in 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture set up the Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets, headed by Sally Collins, the former associate chief of the U.S. Forest Service. In "Green Economy", Jennifer Weeks interviews Collins about the goals of the new office and its push to put a market price on clean water and carbon storage....

2009 July 3. Pacific Northwest Forests Could Store More Carbon, Help Address Greenhouse Issues. ScienceDaily. Excerpt: The forests of the Pacific Northwest hold significant potential to increase carbon storage and help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in coming years, a recent study concludes, if they are managed primarily for that purpose through timber harvest reductions and increased rotation ages.
In the complete absence of stand-replacing disturbances – via fire or timber harvest – forests of Oregon and Northern California could theoretically almost double their carbon storage.
Although it isn't realistic to expect an absence of disturbance, the estimates were based on average conditions up until now that include variation in forest biomass, age, climate, disturbances and soil fertility. If all forest stands in this region were just allowed to increase in age by 50 years, their potential to store atmospheric carbon would still increase by 15 percent, the study concluded.
That would be a modest, but not insignificant offset to the nation's carbon budget, scientists say, since this region accounts for 14 percent of the live biomass in the entire United States.
..."We have known that forests in this region have high productivity, and in recent years we have learned they have a high potential to store large amounts of carbon even at very old ages," said Beverly Law, a professor of forest science at OSU. "The forests west of the Cascade Range are also wetter and less likely to be lost to fire. We suspected these forests might provide more opportunity for carbon storage than has been recognized, and these data support that."...

2009 February 25. Mr. Whipple Left It Out: Soft Is Rough on Forests. By Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times. Excerpt: Americans like their toilet tissue soft: exotic confections that are silken, thick and hot-air-fluffed.
...But fluffiness comes at a price: millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada. Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them.
...With the recession pushing the price for recycled paper down and Americans showing more willingness to repurpose everything from clothing to tires, environmental groups want more people to switch to recycled toilet tissue.
“No forest of any kind should be used to make toilet paper,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist and waste expert with the Natural Resource Defense Council.
In the United States, which is the largest market worldwide for toilet paper, tissue from 100 percent recycled fibers makes up less than 2 percent of sales for at-home use among conventional and premium brands. Most manufacturers use a combination of trees to make their products. According to RISI, an independent market analysis firm in Bedford, Mass., the pulp from one eucalyptus tree, a commonly used tree, produces as many as 1,000 rolls of toilet tissue. Americans use an average of 23.6 rolls per capita a year....

2008 May/June. Tar Sands Rush Threatens to Devour Canadian Boreal Forest. Nature's Voice, NRDC. Excerpt: In the old-growth boreal forest of Canada's Alberta Province, a sprawling network of bogs, lakes and rivers provides a pristine breeding ground for millions of North America's songbirds and waterfowl. Lynx and caribou roam undisturbed among the forest's dense stands of aspen and poplar. But in recent years, soaring demand for oil has driven energy companies to strip bare thousands of acres of this thriving wildlife habitat to produce fuel from buried tar sands -- an immensely polluting and energy-intensive process even by oil industry standards.
...The tar sands found deep beneath Alberta's vast old-growth forests are made up of 90 percent sand, clay, silt, and water and 10 percent bitumen, a tarlike substance that can be converted to oil. Currently, most tar sands production relies on open pit mines, some as large as three miles wide and 200 feet deep. Because less than 20 percent of the oil-producing bitumen deposits are close to the surface, the rest of the deep reserves must be extracted by injecting steam underground and pumping out the melted bitumen. The amount of natural gas used daily during these processes could heat about four million American homes. Once separated from the sand, clay and silt, the bitumen is still of low grade and must undergo yet another energy-intensive process to turn it into a crude oil that more closely resembles conventional oil.
Over the past ten years, oil production from Alberta's tar sands has doubled to more than one million barrels per day. Seventy-five percent of that oil is bound for the United States as both raw and refined products. Driven by skyrocketing U.S. demand, the tar sands rush has spawned a rapidly expanding web of pipelines, roads and wells that threatens to destroy and fragment more than 55,000 square miles of boreal forest habitat -- an area the size of Florida.
...The massive amount of energy needed to extract, upgrade and refine tar sands oil generates three times the amount of global warming pollution as conventional oil production.
...Most Americans are unaware that fully 8 percent of our oil supply already comes from Alberta's tar sands....

2008 Apr 24. Plight of the pines. Brian Hoyle, Nature Reports. Excerpt: Under attack from pine beetles that are thriving in a warmer climate, Canada's boreal forests could become a sizeable source of emissions in the coming decade. Brian Hoyle reports. ...By the end of 2006, the mountain pine beetle...had ravaged 130,000 square kilometres of forest in western Canada.
...Not only is this bad news for the affected trees, whose fate is sealed once the beetle takes hold; the infestation also packs an atmospheric punch. According to scientists who have published a new study in this week's Nature, the assault on British Columbia's pine trees could cause the region to release more carbon dioxide than it absorbs from the atmosphere over the coming decade.
...Led by ecologist Werner Kurz at the Pacific Forestry Centre of the Canadian Forestry Service, the study used a carbon budget model to assess the cumulative impact of various factors - including tree deaths from beetle infestations, forest fires and logging - on the carbon balance of British Columbia's pine forests between 2000 and 2020....

2008 March 17, A Forest of Change. By Beth Daley. The Boston Globe. Excerpt: Scientists have long thought it would take generations if not centuries for tree populations to shift in response to a warming world. But climate change might affect New England forests far sooner than scientists thought . …a study published earlier this month that found that the boundary between northern hardwoods and colder-loving trees shifted about 350 feet uphill in the last 40 years in response to warming temperatures. Climate change is likely only one factor in the forest transformation.
…New England has warmed 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 40 years and it's the consensus of scientists that part of the warming is due to the release of heat-trapping gases from power plants, factories, and vehicles.
…Still, many questions remain. Trees on mountains don't only respond to temperature; precipitation, cloud cover, and wind also determine everything from height to health to the location of the tree line… the answers are complicated. Other factors such as beech bark disease may have killed off enough trees to trigger some of the changes he found in forest composition. Acid rain also likely contributed to the decline of red spruce trees at high elevations.
The long-term prognosis for New England's iconic sugar maples is mixed... But it may be centuries before farmers see any dramatic change in species composition in their carefully managed maple forests.

2008 Feb 1. Ancient Forest to Modern City. By Holli Riebeek, NASA Earth Observatory. To understand how local weather shifted when the towering forests of the eastern United States gave way to fields and cities, scientists must reconstruct the region's historical landscapes.

2007 November. The Story of Stuff: a 20 minute video about our production and consumption patterns showing the connections between a number of environmental and social issues, and the idea of systems on planet Earth.

Fall 2007, Forest Magazine. Blight on the Land. By James Johnston. Excerpt:
It's May, and signs of spring are everywhere along Salmon Creek in northwest Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest. The knobby buds of hardwoods are unfolding into brilliant, lime-green leaves. ...
Cherry blossoms float lazily downstream in shallow pools of crystal-clear water.
It'd be an idyllic scene, except for the dark, heavy smell of oil.
And the squat, angular oil rigs resting on freshly cleared pads every 500 feet for miles.
Oil and gas booms are nothing new to the area-they're older than the national forest itself. Years ago, the primeval eastern hemlock and American beech forest was private land, logged off by the end of the nineteenth century, leaving barren hills and muddy streams as far as the eye could see. In 1911, Congress passed the Weeks Act, which authorized the federal government to purchase denuded forestland in the eastern states. The Allegheny National Forest was established in 1923. The locals mockingly called it the "Allegheny Brush Patch"; no one thought it would ever recover.
But a second-growth forest of sun-loving species like black cherry, red maple, black birch and sugar maple did grow back. By the 1950s the U.S. Forest Service was planning the first black cherry clear-cuts. By the early 1990s black cherry, ideal for furniture and veneer, was selling for astronomical prices: close to $5,000 for a thousand board feet of the rich, reddish-brown wood. Black cherry harvest eventually declined in the late '90s in the face of falling prices and environmental litigation-just in time for the current oil and gas boom.
TO UNDERSTAND HOW SALMON Creek could have been overrun by an oil field, it helps to know the unusual history of the Allegheny. When Congress purchased the land eighty years ago, it only purchased the surface. The mineral estate underlying the forest, the enormous caverns of black gold-an uncommon "sweet" crude ideal for refinement into valuable lubricants and wax products-remained the property of oil companies who can, by law, demand and receive "reasonable access" to their underground property...
OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT ON THE Allegheny is so rampant that even snowmobilers-long the bane of respectable environmentalists-are starting to [complain] ...
... awake to the roar of truck traffic and the angry whine of pump jacks. Roads, gravel pits and well pads have replaced quiet woods ....

November 14 2006. Studies Find Danger to Forests in Thinning Without Burning. By JIM ROBBINS, NY Times. Excerpt: MISSOULA, Mont. - Thinning forests without also burning accumulated brush and deadwood may increase forest fire damage rather than reduce it, researchers at the Forest Service reported in two recent studies. The findings cast doubt on how effective some of the thinning done under President Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative will be at preventing fires if the forests are not also burned. The studies show that in forests that have been thinned but not treated with prescribed burning, tree mortality is much greater than in forests that have had thinning and burning and those that have been left alone. Another study, on Blacks Mountain Experimental Forest in Northern California, had similar findings. The studies, combined with other recent research showing that climate change is reducing snowpack and making the fire season longer and more intense, have prompted researchers to urge the Forest Service to use prescribed fire more. "We need fire on the ground," said Dr. Ronald H. Wakimoto, a professor of forestry at the University of Montana who studies fire. "The only thing that stops fires is previous fire or prescribed fire."...

18 April 2006. Forest on the Threshold. By Holli Riebeek for NASA Earth Observatory. Excerpt: ...Scott Goetz ... spent at least a decade studying and exploring the boreal forests of North America. ... Goetz was using satellite data to study how the spruce-rich forests of northern Canada and Alaska recover after large fires. The burned forest was re-growing as he expected, but the unburned forest was behaving strangely. Since the 1990s, scientists have known that increasing global temperatures have lengthened the growing season in the Arctic. With carbon dioxide, one of the key ingredients in photosynthesis, also on the rise, the forest should have been thriving. But it wasn't. The forest was getting browner, not greener. ... the same theories that predicted that global warming would increase forest growth in the Arctic ... also predicted that the forests would eventually reach the limits of the water supply and go into decline. "We knew something like this would happen," [Rama] Nemani says. "We didn't expect that it was going to happen so quickly." What is happening to the forests of northern Alaska, Canada, Europe, and Siberia? Why have they slowed their growth when everyone thought they should be expanding for several more decades? ... Is it a sign that global warming is changing Northern forests more quickly than anyone thought possible?...

7 February 2006. Canada to Shield 5 Million Forest Acres. By CLIFFORD KRAUSS, NY Times. Excerpt: HARTLEY BAY, British Columbia, Feb. 4 - In this sodden land of glacier-cut fjords and giant moss-draped cedars, a myth is told by the Gitga'at people to explain the presence of black bears with a rare recessive gene that makes them white as snow. ...On Tuesday, an improbable assemblage of officials from the provincial government, coastal Native Canadian nations, logging companies and environmental groups will announce an agreement that they say will accomplish that mission in the home of the spirit bear, an area that is also the world's largest remaining intact temperate coastal rain forest. A wilderness of close to five million acres, almost the size of New Jersey, in what is commonly called the Great Bear Rain Forest or the Amazon of the North will be kept off limits to loggers in an agreement that the disparate parties describe as a crossroads in their relations. The agreement comes after more than a decade of talks, international boycott campaigns against Great Bear wood products and sit-ins in the forests by Native Canadians and environmentalists, who chained themselves to logging equipment...."It's like a revolution," said Merran Smith, director of the British Columbia Coastal Program of Forest Ethics, an environmental group. "It's a new way of thinking about how you do forestry. It's about approaching business with a conservation motive up front, instead of an industrial approach to the forest." ...By 1999, when the Home Depot announced it would phase out sales of wood from the Great Bear and other endangered old forests, some lumber companies were shifting their approach, agreeing to work with the environmentalists. MacMillan Bloedel, before it was acquired by Weyerhaeuser, broke ranks with the industry and promised in 1998 to phase out clear-cutting on the British Columbia coast. Other companies gradually fell into line. "The customer doesn't want products with protesters chained to it," said Patrick Armstrong, a consultant who served as a negotiator for the lumber companies...

15 November 2005. China Is Bright Spot in Dark Report on the World's Diminishing Forests. By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times. Widespread tree planting in China has slowed the rate at which the earth's forested area is dwindling, but the clearing of tropical forests, much of it in areas never previously cut, continues to grow, according to a new United Nations report... The slowing rate of forest loss is encouraging, some forest experts say, but biologists contend that most acreage gained by plantation forestry contains a fraction of the plant and animal diversity destroyed with virgin forests...The report said that worldwide just over 50,000 square miles of forest - an area a bit smaller than New York State - had been cleared or logged annually since 2000. Nearly half of that annual loss affected tracts with no evidence of previous significant human use, the report said.

1 November 2005. Malawi Is Burning, and Deforestation Erodes Economy. By Michael Wines. Malosa, Malawi. Excerpt: Lovely and lissome, the masuku tree rises maybe 35 feet at maturity, its wood the hue of a rare steak, its branches dotted with sweet golfball-size fruits that ferment into a tasty wine...Once heavily forested, Malawi is only about 20 percent covered by tree canopies, and the pace of deforestation is faster than almost anywhere else. Working just after sunrise atop a small mountain not far from here, Injes Juma and his nine friends needed less than five minutes to sever a masuku at its base and send it crashing to the ground. Another five minutes of furious hacking with axes and machetes reduced the tree to a stack of five-foot logs, ready to be carried down the steep grade to the highway below...Because of them, experts say, Malawi loses nearly 200 square miles of its forests annually, a deforestation rate of 2.8 percent that the Southern Africa Development Community says is one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.

Spring 2005. Europe's Black Triangle Turns Green. by Bruce Stutz. NRDC: OnEarth. Who says environmentalism is nothing but bad news? ... The trees survive on the western edge of the notorious Black Triangle, the heavily industrialized region where Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic meet. During the Communist era, this 12,000 square-mile area was one of the most polluted industrial landscapes on the face of the globe. ... Barrett Rock, a professor of natural resources at the University of New Hampshire, ... briefs the researchers on their procedures and they set to work, some at branches, some at trunks, some at roots, like a Lilliputian surgical team operating on a giant. Their patient, however, is not one tree or a single group of trees but the forest itself. They want to know what effects the region's pollution has had on it. And then, they hope, if their measurements and instruments are sensitive enough, their analyses can be used to chart the pathology of this or any other forest.... I watch Rock drill into one of the tree trunks with a hollow bit. He removes a pencil-thick core more than a foot long and holds it up to show me the growth rings. "You see how they get wider?" he asks. "I can read the changes in government in the record of the tree rings."

Spring 2004. Protecting the Heartwood, By Colin Woodard. Nature Conservancy Magazine, page 42. In the forests of northern Maine, The Nature Conservancy is undertaking a grand experiment aimed at preserving forests for future generations-and for those whose livelihoods depend on them now. See related article on Katahdin Forest, Maine

29 February 2004. In Alaska, Help for Logging Comes Late. By FELICITY BARRINGER. Economists doubt that companies turning to the recently opened old-growth trees in the Tongass National Forest will find buyers who will pay enough to keep local loggers going. ... Global timber markets have undergone fundamental shifts. There is a worldwide timber glut. Logging costs in this region are historically much higher than in other parts of the world, making profits elusive at best.

8 February 2004. NY Times. Critics Say Forest Service Battles Too Many Fires. By JIM ROBBINS. Critics of the service say fire is as important as rain in maintaining the health of forests, and that the agency should allow many more fires to burn in unpopulated areas.

Winter 2004. The Tennessee Tree Massacre. By Alex Shoumatoff for OnEarth (NRDC). Excerpt: The paper industry is destroying one of America's last great stands of native forest to bring you fresh shopping bags and toilet paper. If there were an international tribunal that prosecuted crimes against the planet, like the one in The Hague that deals with crimes against humanity, what is happening on the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Tennessee would undoubtedly be indictable. The crime -- one of many clandestine ecocides American corporations are committing around the world -- has taken place over three decades. About 200,000 acres on this tableland have already been clear-cut by the paper industry, and the cutting continues. Where once grew some of the most biologically rich hardwood forest in North America's Temperate Zone (which extends from the Gulf of Mexico to southern Canada), there are now row after row of fast-growing loblolly pine trees genetically engineered to yield the most pulp in the shortest time. But the paper industry's insatiable appetite for timber has met with unexpected competition from an equally voracious insect. In the last four years, an estimated 50 to 70 percent of the pines planted on the plateau have been devoured by the southern pine beetle. Download the full article in PDF format (1.25 MB) to continue reading.

Winter 2003-2004. Inner Voice (FSEEE newsletter). Lives on the Line. Too many firefighters die each year in a fruitless and self-defeating war against fire. Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics has filed the first-ever lawsuit challenging U.S. Forest Service firefighting. It is time for the Forest Service to take a deep breath and assess how fire is to be managed in our national forests.

Action for Nature -- Young Eco-Hero Award -- for 8 -16 year olds. The deadline for applications for the Young Eco-Hero Award for 2004 is Feb.29. Description of the award, application, and additional information about Action for Nature (a non-profit organization in San Francisco) is at: http://www.actionfornature.org. Sally Douglas Arce -- Action for Nature

Summer 2003. Forest Magazine. "The Shelton District: How a Community-Based Forestry Agreement Led to Ecological Ruin". (How a supposedly sustainable logging program cut itself out of trees in a few decades.) By Tim McNulty. Go to http://www.fseee.org/. Choose "Forest Magazine" (left navigation list). Choose "Current issue" or "Back Issues". In the same issue are: "Point of View: Simply a Job?"; "Inner Voice: Skeleton Crew to Manage Forests".


Articles from 2003–present

The Maine Woods--A Publication of the Forest Ecology Network

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