Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Penn State Renewable Natural Resources December Webinars

Below is a listing of the upcoming Penn State Renewable Natural Resources Extension Team's December webinars.  Please be sure to tune in and share with others that may be interested.

PA Forest Stewardship Webinar Series: Top Issues Faced by Woodland Owners, Tuesday, December 8, 2015, 12 and 7 p.m. ET.
Why do you own woodlands? This is an interesting question, and one you have likely asked yourself. Individually, everyone likely has myriad reasons for holding woodlands. Hopefully your woodlands bring levels of satisfaction and enjoyment to life; however, you likely have questions, issues, challenges, and uncertainties associated with your land. In this webinar, we will look at the some of the top issues identified through surveys and discussions with Pennsylvania woodland owners. It is one thing to identify the issues; it is another thing to find resources to attain resolution. We cannot promise to cover your issue or provide the solution you need. However, this process might open new conversations, find new resources, and help you conserve and better manage your woodlands. Presented by Jim Finley, Ibberson Professor of Forest Management and Director of the Center for Private Forests at Penn State.

Penn State Extension Green Infrastructure Webinar Series: The Tree City USA Program & Updates on Pennsylvania's TreeVitalize Program, Tuesday, December 8, 2015, 12 p.m. ET.
The first part of this webinar will focus on Tree City USA, a national program of the Arbor Day Foundation, delivered through a partnership with the states. We'll discuss the importance of achieving Tree City status to a community, the criteria necessary to qualify, and how the program works in Pennsylvania. The second half of this webinar provides an update on the Pennsylvania TreeVitalize urban reforestation program and grant opportunities available to municipalities. Presented by Ellen Roane, DCNR Bureau of Forestry Community Forestry Training and Partnership Specialist.

Northeast Woody/Warm-Season Biomass Consortium Webinar Series: Bioenergy on the Road! Tuesday, December 8, 2015, 1 p.m. ET. Presented by Clare Hinrichs, Mike Jacobson, and Tom Richard, the Pennsylvania State University. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Evergreen Native Plants

Posted: November 18, 2015
by Kathleen Salisbury
Penn State Extension
Photo by Kathleen Salisbury
After the autumn leaves fall and are cleaned up we start thinking of holidays and of plants that will keep our interest throughout the winter. Though there are many plants with berries and interesting bark that can add interest to the winter landscape, Pennsylvania also offers some native evergreens that can help form a backdrop to deciduous berrying shrubs or highlight dramatic bark.
Perhaps one of the most challenging features of creating a native landscape is incorporating evergreens. Our Eastern deciduous forest ecosystem tends to support those plants that lose their leaves in winter, so they don’t become overburdened by the weight of the snow or slowly desiccate exposed to dry winter winds. However, there are a number of native evergreens suitable for making an appearance in a native garden or any other type of landscape.
Remembering that a healthy system, one that supports a diversity of animal life, has 4 layers – the herbaceous or groundcover layer, the shrub layer, the understory layer and the canopy layer, here are some native evergreen plants that will fill each level. Creating this layering in the landscape not only benefits wildlife but creates a landscape that offers year-round seasonal interest.
Click here to read the rest of the story. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Northeast Forests Recovering from Acid Rain

A recent news release listed in the Society of American Foresters E-Forester (11-6-15) noted that north eastern forests that had been damaged by acid precipitation are finally making a comeback.  The US began passing environmental legislation to try and control the problem more than 40 years ago.  A study published in Environmental Science and Technology entitled "Declining Acidic Deposition Begins Reversal of Forest-SoilAcidification in the Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canada" led by the USGS recently released their findings.  They examined soils on 27 sites in both the US and Canada.  All the sites have been experiencing decreasing levels of acid precipitation over the past 8-24 years.  They found aluminum concentrations (a sign of acid rain damage) declined while the pH in upper soils layers has increased across virtually all sites.  Lead study author Gregory Lawrence stated, “Recovery is happening. We’re still trying to figure out how much capacity these ecosystems have to recover, but there’s no question that decreases in acidic deposition are having a positive effect.”  This is good news.  This research offers promising evidence that soils may indeed be rebounding to pre-acid rain conditions.

To read the full story from gizmodo click here.

What is acid rain?
Acid rain is any form of precipitation that is unusually acidic, meaning that it possesses elevated levels of hydrogen ions (low pH). It can have harmful effects on plants, aquatic animals and infrastructure. Acid rain is caused by emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which react with the water molecules in the atmosphere to produce acids. Governments have made efforts since the 1970s to reduce the release of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere with positive results. Nitrogen oxides can also be produced naturally by lightning strikes and sulfur dioxide is produced by volcanic eruptions. The chemicals in acid rain can cause paint to peel, corrosion of steel structures such as bridges, and erosion of stone statues. (

Monday, November 2, 2015

Why Leave the Leaves

Photo by Luke Smith
Savvy gardeners know that keeping fallen leaves on their property benefits wildlife and the environment. It’s that time of year again.  The air turns crisp, the leaves turn red and gold and homeowners turn to the annual chore, raking leaves and disposing of them after they fall to the ground.

Traditionally, leaf removal entailed three steps: Rake leaves (or blast them with a blower) into piles, transfer the piles to bags and place the bags out to be hauled off to a landfill. Conservationists say these actions not only harm the environment but rob your garden of nutrients while destroying wildlife habitat. What is the alternative? “Let fallen leaves stay on your property,” says National Wildlife Federation Naturalist David Mizejewski.

Leaves in Landfills
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, leaves and other yard debris account for more than 13 percent of the nation’s solid waste or 33 million tons a year! Without enough oxygen to decompose, this organic matter releases the greenhouse gas methane, says Joe Lamp’l, author of The Green Gardener’s Guide. Solid-waste landfills are the largest U.S. source of man-made methane, and that’s aside from the carbon dioxide generated by gas-powered blowers and trucks used in leaf disposal.

For gardeners, turning leaves into solid waste is wasteful. “Fallen leaves offer a double benefit,” Mizejewski says. “Leaves form a natural mulch that helps suppress weeds and fertilizes the soil as they decompose. Why spend money on mulch and fertilizer when you can make your own?”

Leaves and Wildlife
Removing leaves also eliminates vital wildlife habitat. Critters ranging from turtles and toads to birds, mammals and invertebrates rely on leaf litter for food, shelter and nesting material. Many moth and butterfly caterpillars overwinter in fallen leaves before emerging in spring.

Every Litter Bit Counts
What should you do with all those fallen leaves you're not sending to the landfill?
• Let leaves stay where they fall. They won't hurt your lawn if you chop them with a mulching mower.
• Rake leaves off the lawn to use as mulch in garden beds. For finer-textured mulch, shred them first.
• Let leaf piles decompose; the resulting leaf compost can be used as a soil amendment to improve structure and water retention.
• Make compost: Combine fallen leaves (“brown material”) with grass clippings and other “green material” and keep moist and well mixed. You’ll have nutrient-rich compost to add to your garden next spring.
• Check with your community government. Some communities will pick up leaves and make compost to sell or give away.
• Build a brush shelter. Along with branches, sticks and stems, leaves can be used to make brush piles that shelter wildlife.

The NationalWildlife Foundation offers a number of ideas for keeping leaves out of landfills. Find out at