Friday, February 28, 2014

Penn State Renewable Natural Resources Webinar Series

The Extension Educators at Penn State hold a number of interesting and valuable webinars each month.  These webinars are free to participate in.  Each webinar is provided "live" and recoded and posted to a web site for later viewing as well.  Below is the list of upcoming programs.  Be sure to tune in if you see something you may find of value. 

PA Forest Stewardship Webinar: Attracting Wildlife with “Weeds,” Tuesday, March 11, 12 – 1 p.m. EST and 7 – 8 p.m. EST
Many landowners are interested in creating habitat in their backyards to attract wildlife.  However, many of our ecologically important native plants are perceived as weeds when in actuality they are beneficial to wildlife. In this webinar we will discuss the need to create wildlife habitat in your backyard and will draw the distinction between native and non-native weeds. Presented by Katie Ombalski, Conservation Biologist, ClearWater Conservancy.

Northeast Woody/Warm-Season Biomass Consortium Webinar: Developments in Switchgrass Production for Bioenergy, Tuesday, March 11, 1 p.m.-2 p.m. EST. Presented by Stacy Bonos, Rutgers University.

PA Urban & Community Forestry Webinar: Diagnosing and Managing Tree Diseases, Tuesday, March 11, 12 – 1 p.m. EST.  Presented by Dr. Gary Moorman.

Water Resources Webinar: The Conewago Creek Initiative:  Community Working Together to Restore a Watershed, Wednesday, March 26, 12 – 1 p.m. EST. Presented by Matt Royer, Environment and Natural Resources Institute, Penn State University.

We look forward to having you join these discussions and learning experiences.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Passenger Pigeon’s Extinction

2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon. The passenger pigeon's story is unlike any other bird we know of today.  They once ranged far and wide over the deciduous forests of Eastern North America and had a population that was likely to have been as large at 3 to 5 billion.  This would have made it the most abundant bird in North America if not the world.  Exploitation by man was able to drive this species to extinction in just a few decades.

This bird likely had a great influence on our hardwood forests as its diet is described as composed mainly of beechnuts, acorns, and chestnuts in the fall and berries and softer fruits during the summer.  Their large flocks numbering in the tens or hundreds of thousands would overturn leaves, dirt, and snow in their search for nuts.  A foraging flock was capable of devouring nearly all the fruits and nuts they could find.  Their foraging activity ranged from 60 to 100 miles from their roost daily.  They ate quickly, as competition for food was fierce, storing food in their crop which was capable of expanding to the size of an orange.  Their crops were described as, "being capable of holding at least 17 acorns or 28 beechnuts, 11 grains of corn, 100 maple seeds, plus other material."

In recognition of the loss of this amazing bird and increase awareness of species exploitation the Arboretum at Penn State and the Penn State Department of Ecosystem Science and Management are providing a special presentation entitled The Passenger Pigeon's Extinction: Lessons from the Past for a Sustainable Future.  The presentation will take place on Thursday, April 3 at 4:00 PM in the Forest Resources Building, Room 112 on the Penn State University Park campus. 

The presentation will be provided by Stanley Temple, Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Senior Fellow Aldo Leopold Foundation.  There will also be a tour of the Arboretum Children’s Garden immediately following the presentation.  If you are interested in attending please email Nancy Stoner at:

A web site has also been created entitled Project Passenger Pigeon.  The goals of the Project include, marking the anniversary, promoting the conservation of species and habitat, strengthening the relationship between people and nature, and fostering the sustainable use of natural resources.  The project aims to engage a broad audience through a documentary film, a new book on passenger pigeons, this website, social media, curricula, and a wide range of exhibits and programming for people of all ages.

The documentary film being produced is entitled "From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction." To learn more about this film click here.  There is also a short 4 minute promo trailer narrated by author Joel Greenberg.  The film attempts to reveal the story of how the passenger pigeon disappeared and why, 100 years later, it is important to remember this historic event.

For more on the Passenger Pigeon in Pennsylvania click here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Is the cold weather this winter going to help with our invasive insect pests?

Woke up this morning to the third blast or arctic air that has gripped our region this winter.  As I write this it is a chilly 5 degrees, was minus 1 F when I woke up.  Scientists are calling this the Arctic Vortex.  So can these frigid temperatures help control some of our most problematic insect pests?  Extreme winter temperatures are one of nature’s ways of controlling animal populations and distribution.  

Many animals, including insects, have developed adaptations to survive extreme conditions, some migrate, others grow thicker fur, still others hibernate.  Many insects and other arthropods have adapted to survive freezing temperatures by producing and storing their own internal antifreeze, elthylene glycol.  Invasive forest insects thrive in woods because they been introduced into an environment with no natural controls.  Being introduced into foreign countries their populations grow unchecked since the natural controls found in their native lands are not present.

Invasive insects that have evolved in warmer climates aren't likely to survive in extreme winter cold.  Although complete mortality isn't likely, I would expect to see a temporary decline in number of some species like hemlock wooly adelgid for example.  The real question is....How cold is cold enough to really affect these invasive populations in Pennsylvania?  I provided some answers below.  Looks like we may have impacted hemlock wooly adelgid some but the emerald ash borer needs much colder temperatures to cause mortality, closer to -13 degrees F.

Cold Hardiness of Emerald Ash Borer, A New Perspective (USDA Forest Service)
"Naturally infested logs were held outdoors in St. Paul, MN (low winter air temp = -18°F) and near Grand Rapids, MN (-29°F) for ca. 5.5 weeks. Approximately 40% of larvae from logs in St. Paul were inactive or brown, both evidence of death; approximately 90% of larvae from logs near Grand Rapids"
Cold Snap is no Snow Day for Emerald Ash Borer Management (University of Minnesota Extension 2014) 
"Data collected from the winters of 2009-2012 indicate that a substantial fraction of emerald ash borer larvae may die as temperatures fall below -20°F. At that temperature, mortality should be about 50%. Mortality rates increase quickly to about 90% as temperatures approach -30°F."  

Regional Responses of Hemlock Wooly Adelgid to Low Temperatures (Entomological Society of America)
"For all months and sites, mortality increased as temperature decreased, and no survival occurred among those from the Central and Southern sites exposed to −22 and −31°F.  In January and February, ≤3% of the adelgids collected from the Northern site survived −22°F, and none survived −31°F in January or March.  In Northern sites only 14% survived exposure to 5°F in March.  In all sites the actual percentage of adelgids that survived after exposure to 5°F decreased 50–60% from January to March."

Science Friday (Jan 10, 2014) produced a radio interview with US Forest Service research biologist, Rob Venette.
"Colder winter weather may have you bundling up, but it can be really bad news for some invasive insects. Research biologist Rob Venette discusses which invasive insects may not make it through the winter and how climate change has affected their distribution."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

2013 Farm Bill Update #2

Yesterday the Senate passed the 2013 Farm Bill by a 68-32 vote.   This is a huge win for woodland owners nationwide.  This new Farm Bill is one of the strongest yet for forest owners. 

As I noted in an earlier post, this bill passed through the House last week.  It will now be sent to the President for his signature.

Below is a summary of what's included?
  • New market opportunities and further research on additional opportunities.
  • Protection from unnecessary permit requirements on your forest roads.
  • Protection from the threat of forest invasive pests.
  • Improved access to tools and resources for forest stewardship.
With this Farm Bill legislation we should see significant improvements for family woodland owners.  Be sure to send a big thank you to your local senators and reps who voted in favor of the legislation.

For the full news release you can go to the American Forest Foundation's New Page.

Also, the National Woodland Owners Association has posted a one page summary of the 2013 Farm Bill that is on the president's desk for signature.   Below are the highlights:
For woodland owners, about everything NWOA and our many partners in the forest community felt was critical is in there. Here is a sample:
1.  Includes a limit to EPA’s regulatory reach as well as “citizen lawsuits” over forest road stormwater run-off. 
2.  The bill adopts the most important terms of the Silvaculture Regulatory Consistency Act, proposed to resolve the was drafted to resolve “Forest Roads lawsuit.” Hopefully this saga is over. 
3.  Consolidates twelve successful landowner assistance programs into five, with improved eligibility and program objectives. 
4.  Permanently authorizes the Stewardship Contracting Program which allows private contractors to bid on forest health and improvement projects on federal land. This provision will be especially useful in treating overstocked and fire prone federal timberlands whose poor condition presents a real wildfire danger to rural communities as well as adjacent private woodlands. 
5.  Improves the Forest Inventory & Analysis program to make supply data more useful to investors in forest industries to produce American grown wood.

To read the full release from NWOA click here.

To see how your representative voted click here.
To see how your senator (Senate vote will be posted soon) voted click here