News and Events
Red spruce faces a variety of challenges in the southern Appalachians — from past exploitative logging to land use change and forest fragmentation, and now climate change. A three-year study funded by the National Science Foundation is investigating historic red spruce decline in abundance and range shifts — as well as how those shifts might continue in the future.
On November 3, about forty people from the USDA Forest Service and The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) gathered virtually. It was the second biennial plan of work meeting between TACF and SRS.
Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia) is a critically endangered conifer tree in swift decline since the 1950s. The torreya fungus (Fusarium torreyae) is currently devastating the remaining Florida torreya population. The fungus forms cankers, or localized dead areas, that damage branch or trunk tissue and eventually kill the trees.
Shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) and longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystems have been dwindling for decades. Restoration is a huge priority for the USDA Forest Service, the Longleaf Pine Alliance, the Shortleaf Pine Initiative, and many others. Restoration requires seed, and on National Forest System lands the seed comes from USDA Forest Service seed orchards. The Forest Service owns and manages 70 percent of all longleaf and 90 percent of all shortleaf orchards across the South.
Most bourbon whiskey is made in Kentucky, and federal law requires all bourbon to be aged in white oak barrels. USDA Forest Service researchers and partners are teaming up to advance the sustainability and restoration of white oak resources across the South. This research, along with forest health research on the American chestnut and other important tree species, is happening at the Forest Health Research and Education Center (FHC), a collaborative science and education hub at the University of Kentucky (UK) in Lexington.
When a cold snap killed the Eucalyptus benthamii saplings, no one was surprised. E. benthamii is one of the most cold-tolerant of approximately 700 Eucalypts. Still, it is maladapted to the North Carolina Piedmont, according to a recent USDA Forest Service study published in Forest Science.
Laurel wilt has devastated plants in the Lauraceae family – redbay, sassafras, pondberry, avocado, and others – since it was first detected in the southeastern U.S. around 2002. The disease is caused by the pathogen Raffaelea lauricola and carried by the redbay ambrosia beetle – and by humans moving infested wood.
“Longleaf roots are pretty legendary,” says USDA Forest Service scientist Peter Anderson. “It’s common to hear that you can dig up a really old stump and use it as a quick, reliable kindling.”
Pines contain oleoresins, a sticky liquid mix of oil and resin (or rosin). “There are companies today that buy and dig old taproots for rosin production,” adds Anderson.
When asked which tree uses more water, the native, industry favorite loblolly pine or the ultra-fast growing immigrant from Australia, Eucalyptus, U.S. Forest Service biological scientist Chris Maier had a quick answer: both. “Growing wood requires water,” says Maier.
Shortleaf pine is under siege, and one of the threats has emerged in seed orchards. “In some shortleaf seed orchards, 10 percent of trees are hybrids,” says U.S. Forest Service research geneticist Dana Nelson. “Although the majority we’d consider shortleaf pine, even a few hybrids is enough to raise concern.”
Southern Regional Extension Forestry (SREF) recently published a new technology bulletin on the biology, diagnosis, and management of Heterobasidion root disease in southern pines. U.S. Forest Service plant pathologists Tyler Dreaden, Southern Research Station (SRS), and Michelle Cram, Forest Health Protection, co-authored the publication with Jason Smith from the University of Florida and SREF’s David Coyle.
The Forest Health Research and Education Center, a collaborative project among the Forest Service Southern Research Station, the University of Kentucky, and the Kentucky Division of Forestry, will share a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation with researchers from Washington State University (serving as lead), the University of Tennessee, and the University of Connecticut.
Apollo 14 landed on the moon in 1971, the third manned mission to land on Earth’s only natural satellite. The spacecraft carried an unusual cargo – tree seeds. Astronaut Stuart Roosa — previously a smoke jumper for the U.S. Forest Service — carried several hundred seeds from loblolly pine and four other tree species with him on the expedition. After the astronauts returned, some of the loblolly pine seeds were donated to the U.S. Forest Service, where technician Billy Mauldin grew and germinated them at the Forest Service Southern Institute of Forest Genetics.
Sometimes it seems as if the forests of the eastern U.S. are losing the battle with invasive insects and pathogens – emerald ash borer, hemlock woolly adelgid, Asian longhorned beetles, gypsy moth, chestnut blight, sudden oak death, thousand cankers disease, laurel wilt – the list goes on and on.
To help keep the European chestnut from suffering the same plight as the American chestnut, Portuguese scientist and Fulbright grant recipient Rita Costa recently spent three months working at the U.S. Forest Service Southern Institute of Forest Genetics (SIFG) in Saucier, Mississippi, and the Forest Health Research and Education Center (FHC), Department of Forestry, at the University of Kentucky.