Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Forests on the Rise

Forest report shows most growth in north
U.S. Forest Service scientists today released an assessment that shows forest land has expanded in northern states during the past century despite a 130-percent population jump and relentless environmental threats. At the same time, Forest Service researchers caution that threats to forests in the coming decades could undermine these gains.

According to the Forests of the Northern United States report, forest coverage in the United States has increased by 28 percent across the region that includes Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Forested land currently accounts for 42 percent of the northern land area. Population in the region rose from 52 to 124 million people during the past 100 years, while northern forest coverage expanded from 134 to 172 million acres. Total U.S. forest land remained essentially unchanged during that time.

Click here to read full news release.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lyme disease surge predicted for NE U.S.

This came through my inbox yesterday.  Thought I would share it with my readers.  I have been in the field the past two days in Central Pennsylvania and the tick numbers are definitely up, but don't blame it on the weather...read on!

Boom-and-bust acorn crops and a decline in mice leave humans vulnerable to infected ticks

Millbrook, NY – The northeastern U.S. should prepare for a surge in Lyme disease this spring. And we can blame fluctuations in acorns and mouse populations, not the mild winter. So reports Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY.

What do acorns have to do with illness? Acorn crops vary from year-to-year, with boom-and-bust cycles influencing the winter survival and breeding success of white-footed mice. These small mammals pack a one-two punch: they are preferred hosts for black-legged ticks and they are very effective at transmitting Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

“We had a boom in acorns, followed by a boom in mice. And now, on the heels of one of the smallest acorn crops we’ve ever seen, the mouse population is crashing,” Ostfeld explains. Adding, “This spring, there will be a lot of Borrelia burgdorferi-infected black-legged ticks in our forests looking for a blood meal. And instead of finding a white-footed mouse, they are going to find other mammals—like us.”

For more than two decades, Ostfeld, Cary Institute forest ecologist Dr. Charles D. Canham, and their research team have been investigating connections among acorn abundance, white-footed mice, black-legged ticks, and Lyme disease. In 2010, acorn crops were the heaviest recorded at their Millbrook-based research site. And in 2011, mouse populations followed suit, peaking in the summer months. The scarcity of acorns in the fall of 2011 set up a perfect storm for human Lyme disease risk.

Black-legged ticks take three bloodmeals—as larvae, as nymphs, and as adults. Larval ticks that fed on 2011’s booming mouse population will soon be in need of a nymphal meal. These tiny ticks—as small as poppy seeds—are very effective at transmitting Lyme to people. The last time Ostfeld’s research site experienced a heavy acorn crop (2006) followed by a sparse acorn crop (2007), nymphal black-legged ticks reached a 20-year high.

The May-July nymph season will be dangerous, and Ostfeld urges people to be aware when outdoors. Unlike white-footed mice, who can be infected with Lyme with minimal cost, the disease is debilitating to humans. Left undiagnosed, it can cause chronic fatigue, joint pain, and neurological problems. It is the most prevalent vector-borne illness in the U.S., with the majority of cases occurring in the Northeast.

Ostfeld says that mild winter weather does not cause a rise in tick populations, although it can change tick behavior. Adult ticks, which are slightly larger than a sesame seed, are normally dormant in winter but can seek a host whenever temperatures rise several degrees above freezing. The warm winter of 2011-2012 induced earlier than normal activity. While adult ticks can transmit Lyme, they are responsible for a small fraction of tick-borne disease, with spring-summer nymphs posing more of a human health threat.

Past research by Ostfeld and colleagues has highlighted the role that intact forest habitat and animal diversity play in buffering Lyme disease risks. He is currently working with health departments in impacted areas to educate citizens and physicians about the impending surge in Lyme disease.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Game Commission Releases 2011-12 Deer Harvest Estimates

The Pennsylvania Game Commission reported hunters harvested an estimated 336,200 deer during the state's 2011-12 seasons.  This is a 6% increase from last season's harvest of 316,240.

Hunters took an estimated 127,540 antlered deer and 208,660 antlerless deer in the 2011-12 seasons.  The buck harvest is an increase of 4% over the previous year’s harvest of 122,930.  The antlerless deer harvest is up 8% from the 193,310 antlerless deer taken in 2010-11.

“This year’s antlered deer harvest is slightly above average harvest since 2005, when the Game Commission began efforts to stabilize deer populations in most of the state,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “Antlered deer harvests increased in 13 of the state’s 22 Wildlife Management Units. Those WMUs in which the antlered deer harvest increased were WMUs 1B, 2A, 2B, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4D, 4E, 5A, 5B and 5D.”

To read the full news release click here.

Release #027-12
March 14, 2012
For Information Contact:
Jerry Feaser

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Timber Market Recovery

The below article was highlighted in the Society of American Forester's E-Forester.  I thought I would share it with my readers.  It is written from a southern perspective but it is just as applicable to Pennsylvania as it is to Mississippi.

Also, in reference to timber markets I wanted to be sure you all were aware of the Penn State Extension Timber Market Report.  This report is prepared at the end of each quarter and tracks both stumpage and mill prices across 4 regions of Pennsylvania.  Ten year trend data is also available.  For example, the ten year price data shows black cherry prices down just over 10%.

Here are Dr. Jacobson's comments on the 4th quarter of 2011:
"This is the first quarter in a while where, on average, most individual species prices have nudged upward since the previous quarter. The increase is minimal but it does suggest some stability in the markets as the trend is positive. Factors for this up tick include rebuilding low inventories, higher bids on public lands, and stronger export markets. Higher grade lumber is still relatively weak compared to other products."
Timber market recovery hinges on economy and housing upturn
Hembree Brandon, Delta Farm Express, February 27, 2012
U.S. timber and lumber sales have taken a major hit as a result of the housing bubble collapse and the economic recession that began in 2008, says James Henderson, and while there has been a glimmer of improvement in the market — thanks in part to China — it may be 2015/2016 before housing starts boost demand to pre-recession levels.

To read the full story click here.