Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Southern pine beetle impacts on forest ecosystems

18.05.2012
Shortleaf pine-hardwood ecosystem restoration following insect outbreak

Research by USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists shows that the impacts of recent outbreaks of southern pine beetle further degraded shortleaf pine-hardwood forest ecosystems in the southern Appalachian region. The authors suggest that cutting and burning these sites reduces heavy fuel loads, improves soil nutrient status, and opens the canopy for restoration of these shortleaf pine communities.

In an article published in the June issue of journal Forest Ecology and Management, research ecologist Katherine Elliott and fellow scientists from the SRS Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory examine the effects of three treatments to restore shortleaf pine-hardwood forests in areas where southern pine beetle attacks have killed most of the overstory pines.

Historically, frequent fire maintained the pine-hardwood ecosystems of the southern Appalachians as open grassy savannas with widely spaced oaks and shortleaf pines, a grassy understory, and relatively clear midstory. The interactions of past land use, fire exclusion, drought, and southern pine beetle outbreaks have severely impacted these ecosystems.

"Over the past century, these ecosystems have been on a trajectory of increased loss of pines in the overstory, lack of regeneration of both pines and oaks, loss of ground layer plants, and the expansion of the evergreen shrub mountain laurel in the midstory," says Elliott. "The latest outbreak of southern pine beetle, a native insect, killed more overstory pines, further damaging the ecosystem while adding fuel for fire."

For the study, the researchers selected eight 12 to 15-acre study sites in pine-hardwood ecosystems where a large number of the pines had been killed by southern pine beetle. They tested the effects of burning only, cutting and burning on sites with droughty soils, and cutting and burning on sites with medium soil moisture. Two years after the treatments, they reported increased soil nutrient availability, greater herbaceous plant cover and diversity, and more native bluestem grasses.

Unfortunately, they found only a few pine seedlings in the understory after the treatments. "In our study, poor pine regeneration may have been due to drought, poor seed production, and hardwood competition in the understory," says Elliott. "Poor seed production was not unexpected, since southern pine beetles killed almost all of the overstory pines before the treatments."

The researchers found that though oak regeneration increased on all the burned sites, other hardwood species increased as well. The researchers suggest that without further intervention, oaks will not succeed into the overstory due to competition from faster growing hardwoods.

This study showed that cutting followed by prescribed fire can reduce fuel loads, increase soil nutrient availability, open the canopy by reducing trees in the overstory, and stimulate vegetative growth. These cut-and-burn treatments have positioned these degraded ecosystems on a restoration trajectory.

"Further silvicultural treatments are needed to fully restore these sites to shortleaf pine/bluestem communities," says Elliott. "Additional follow-up treatments could include planting pine seedlings, using thinning or herbicides to reduce competition from faster growing red maple and sassafras sprouts and shrubs, and repeated burning to maintain open woodland for native grass and other plant cover."

"Land managers need information on treatment options that will reduce the heavy fuel from dead and dying trees, and they need information on how to most effectively restore these forests," says Elliott. "We will continue to work with land managers on applying and refining these treatments in their efforts to fully restore shortleaf pine/native bluestem grass ecosystems."

"Without the partnership and support from the National Forests of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia this research would not be possible or as relevant," she adds. "For this study, the Ocoee Ranger District, Cherokee National Forest was responsible for implementing the treatments and they worked closely with the researchers to make it all happen." In return, researchers provide the information to the National Forest partners and others by onsite tours and workshops.

This research was partially funded by the Joint Fire Science Program, which supports scientific research on wildland fires and distributes results to help policymakers, fire managers and practitioners make sound decisions.

Access the full text of the article: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/40511

For more information: Katherine Elliot at 828-524-2128, x110 or kelliot@fs.fed.us

Headquartered in Asheville, N.C., 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 at: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/

Katherine Elliot | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.fs.fed.us

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Researchers discover a new link to fight billion-dollar threat to soybean production
14.02.2017 | University of Missouri-Columbia

nachricht Important to maintain a diversity of habitats in the sea
14.02.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biocompatible 3-D tracking system has potential to improve robot-assisted surgery

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Real-time MRI analysis powered by supercomputers

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Antibiotic effective against drug-resistant bacteria in pediatric skin infections

17.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>