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Warming Climate Brings New Pest to Forests

From the desk of Tim Hawley, certified Forester

Scientists have identified a new threat to forests. Outbreaks have been reported in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont. The origin of the new species remains the subject of debate, in part due to rapid changes in the species genetic code. There is some consensus that it is in the Nimbyaceae. A provisional scientific name of Carbonrectum pseudoscientia has been assigned. Many foresters will recognize the common name of “proforestation.”

Like Southern pine beetle, C. pseudoscientia appears to benefit from climate change, or the threat of climate change. Unlike Southern pine beetle, Asian long-horned beetle, or emerald ash borer, C. pseudoscientia does not itself kill the trees. Much like white pine weevil, Pissodes strobi, C. pseudoscientia renders the trees un-usable for timber products and predisposes large areas to mortality by wind, drought, spongy moth (Lymantria dispar), and two-lined chestnut borer (Agrilus bilineatus). Tragically, the new pest is attracted to extensive public ownerships with an abundance of maturing trees. It has, so far, not been found in forests less than 40 years old. Like Pissodes strobi, C. pseudoscientia seeks out the tallest trees, but unlike Pissodes strobi, it is indiscriminate as to species. It attacks trees of any species. The infestation typically begins with a small number of the largest trees in a stand. Once established, it spreads to other trees without recognizing that quantitative silviculture (carbon dynamics) of individual trees differs from the quantitative silviculture (carbon dynamics) of stands.

The origin of C. pseudoscientia remains a mystery. It has been linked to species around the globe, but this linkage may be superficial and opportunistic. One highly-controversial hypothesis is that it escaped from a propaganda laboratory in the petroleum, concrete, or steel industry.

While it is expected that forests anywhere can become infected, C. pseudoscientia seems to thrive best where affluence and access to global markets have weakened the appreciation for locally-produced renewable natural resources. A correlation has been made between the percentage of land area under concrete and susceptibility of remaining forest to C. pseudoscientia.

Damage from C. pseudoscientia may, in some situations, be mitigated by the following practices:

1. When preparing plans and timber harvests, take affirmative actions to document and enhance old growth characteristics:

a. Prepare operating plans at a sufficiently-broad scale to provide the landscape context. For example, timber harvest plans should include mapping and narrative to describe forest and wildlife habitat conditions across the surrounding landscape about 0.5 mile (0.8 km) or more in radius.

b. Record snags, cavity trees, and fallen trees during inventory and marking, and include that data in operating plans.

c. Balance optimal rotation length for timber value with optimal length for carbon sequestration, resilience, and reduced frequency of harvesting.

d. Retain exceptionally large trees and specimen legacy trees, including “wolf trees”.

e. Retain cavity trees and snags across a wide range of stem diameters.

f. Create canopy openings of varying size.

g. Retain coarse woody debris, including some exceeding some at least 16 inches (40 cm) in diameter and some in stream channels.

h. Minimize soil disturbance during harvesting.

2. Seek input and address priorities of all stakeholders. Establish and mark boundaries of “no-cut” reserves, for example.

3. Invite neighbors and other stakeholders to join a site walk through areas proposed for harvesting

Active forest management, grounded in science, provides wilderness, needed wood products, resiliency and ecosystem services

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