Gray ghosts are a common sight in the southern Appalachians. A hemlock woolly adegid infestation has killed many hemlock trees in the Linville Gorge area of Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. (U.S. Forest Service/Steve Norman)
Residents of the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States have long enjoyed a rich culture of storytelling. Often rooted in a deep connection to the natural world, stories from Appalachian folklore serve to entertain as well as to educate; sometimes, important life lessons emerge, especially from tales of demise. A present-day ghost story from the southern Appalachians has captured the attention of U.S. Forest Service researchers who are using high-tech tools to follow the footprints of lost life.
The ghosts in this story are eastern and Carolina hemlock trees. Hemlocks provide valuable ecosystem services in Appalachian forests, including cover for wildlife and cooling shade along waterways. But they are being killed in increasing numbers by an exotic invasive insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid. Native to Asia, the hemlock woolly adelgid is transported through forests by animals, wind and, accidentally, by people. Often called “gray ghosts” because of their pale, skeleton-like appearance, the dead hemlocks are obvious across the mountain landscape. Using a forest monitoring tool known as ForWarn, scientists are able to see just how devastating the hemlock losses have become across the southern Appalachians, where the hemlock woolly adelgid thrives in the warmer temperatures. Here, the hemlock woolly adelgid is killing trees much more quickly than in the more northern areas of the hemlocks’ range, sometimes in as few as four years after infestation. Read more »
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
A pine cone has many purposes. It could serve as a home for birds and insects. Pine cones contain seeds to use in reforestation projects. They even can be made into fanciful ornaments to adorn the 2014 Capitol Christmas Tree.
That’s exactly what students learned during a recent Science Fusion program at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
As part of an overarching mission to the world of science, technology, engineering and math, these special Saturday programs afford underserved Minnesota youth the opportunity to interact with local scientists, engineers, inventors and science educators through hands-on activities. Read more »
During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, including research into trees that could fuel new energy solutions.
A team of researchers led by the University of California–Davis has mapped the complete genome of the loblolly pine. And if you don’t think that understanding the genetic makeup of loblolly pine is a big deal, perhaps you cannot see the forest for the trees.
Loblolly pine, the most commercially important tree in the United States, is the source of most paper products in this country and 58 percent of timber. On the surface, that might be reason enough for the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to invest $14.6 million in 2011 toward science that could increase the productivity and health of American forests. Read more »
The forests that cling to the steep slopes and cliffs of New Zealand’s Milford Sound are an example of the many pristine forest lands protected throughout the world (U.S. Forest Service/Robert Westover)
A world without forests would be pretty bleak. Life as we know it couldn’t exist. In fact it would, more than likely, be a dead planet. That’s because everything we take for granted; clean air and water, abundant wildlife and nearly every product we use in our daily lives, from the roof above our heads to pencils, wouldn’t exist.
It would be a challenge just to live one day without using a product derived from a tree. Aside from paper, you might not even be able to sit in a chair or desk at school or work. These things are part of our everyday existence because of forests.
Since trees are important for everyone around the world, the United Nations (U.N.) has designated every March 21 as the International Day of Forests. Read more »
Harvard Forest staff renovated a pole barn to house the boiler room and modern wood shop. The new boiler room (left side of the building) contains three wood gasification boilers, a 2,500-gallon thermal storage tank, a propane-fired backup boiler and associated pumps and system controls. The sloped roof on the left of the building provides a dry storage area for racks of firewood prior to loading in the boilers. (U.S. Forest Service/Rob Clark)
I recently had the opportunity to speak at the dedication ceremony for the Harvard Forest Wood Energy Project, an exciting venture partially supported by the U.S. Forest Service Northeastern Area. This woody-biomass heating system will support 50,000 square feet of the central campus buildings and five dormitories, replacing fuel-oil with renewable firewood that comes from Harvard Forest, a 3,500-acre laboratory and classroom in Petersham, Mass., and owned by Harvard University.
A unique aspect of this project is that it is at the heart of a long-term forest carbon research project. Not only are carbon flows in the Harvard Forest where the wood for the new energy system will come from already being closely studied, but now every aspect of the new installation will be very closely monitored and studied as well. Read more »
Mount Edgecumbe volcano is on Kruzof Island in Southeast Alaska, just west of Sitka. The Mount Edgecumbe Volcanic Field consists of more than a dozen volcanic vents and domes. The field first erupted more than 600,000 years ago, and volcanic activity continued until 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. (U.S. Forest Service/Jim Baichtal)
Seldom does one find a way to directly date a prehistoric volcanic eruption, but 11-year-old Blake LaPerriere opened such a door for excited scientists in Southeast Alaska.
Last September, Blake, his parents, and his younger brothers were exploring a beach on southwestern Kruzof Island, part of the Tongass National Forest landscape and just west of Sitka, Alaska, where they live. Blake investigated a deeply incised creek behind a pile of beach drift where he found a standing burnt tree embedded in a tall bank of pumice. He brought it to his family’s attention, asking “Do you think that’s from a volcanic eruption a long time ago?”
Curious, Blake’s father Zach took photos and sent them my way. Read more »