14 April 2014

Satellite remote sensing for biodiversity research and conservation applications

Coordination of research efforts between the remote-sensing and ecology scientific communities may have a vital role to play in the conservation of biodiversity and protection of ecosystem functions. A special themed issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B published today focuses on how integrative approaches combining ecological knowledge and satellite-based information are enabling an improved understanding of the mechanisms responsible for changes in patterns of biodiversity.

Two of the articles relate directly to forestry and brief descriptions of these are provided below, along with links to the full papers (a log-in or purchase is required for access).

13 April 2014

Forests for the People: The Story of America's Eastern National Forests (Island Press, 2013)

It is clear from the opening pages of Forests for the People: The Story of America's Eastern National Forests that the work is an undertaking of ambitious scope. To tell the story of a single national forest from formation impetuses through to present-day challenges would be daunting for most scholars; Johnson and Govatski have here tackled the forests of half of the United States (defined as those east of the 100th meridian). But by skilfully drawing together threads and teasing out parallels, the authors achieve an "economy of scale" and the book is much more about exploring overarching themes and broad underlying issues than providing a catalogue of forest histories.

Ignoring the extensive notes section and bibliography, the book is essentially two-fifths political history and three-fifths modern case examples, with these two areas covered in discrete parts. The book should be a satisfying purchase even for a reader who was interested in only the historical context or the modern management challenges. Nevertheless, a reading of the entire book is greatly rewarded, as the modern management practices are, of course, best understood within the context of the policy and history underpinning the national forests' formation.

Research blast: Forest health (13-04-14)

This post briefly summarizes findings from five recent studies relating to forest health and provides links to the full papers (a log-in or purchase may be required for access).
For a description of this and other research blast categories, click here.

29 March 2014

Can thinning be used to improve habitat for capercaillie in Scots pine plantations?

In Scotland, semi-natural Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) woodland is considered the prime habitat for capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), but pine plantations represent a far greater proportion of the nation's forests. The potential brood habitat for capercaillie could be increased within plantations of Scots pine by manipulating light levels to favour the establishment of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), with the goal of achieving a ground flora with more than 20% bilberry cover, ideally without a conflict with management for timber production.

Research blast: Stand dynamics (29-03-14)

This post briefly summarizes findings from five recent studies relating to stand dynamics and provides links to the full papers (a log-in or purchase may be required for access).
For a description of this and other research blast categories, click here.

Research blast: Policy and management (29-03-14)

This post briefly summarizes findings from five recent studies relating to policy and management and provides links to the full papers (a log-in or purchase may be required for access).

For a description of this and other research blast categories, click here.

23 March 2014

Research blast: Habitat ecology (23-03-14)

This post briefly summarizes findings from five recent studies relating to habitat ecology and provides links to the full papers (a log-in or purchase may be required for access).

For a description of this and other research blast categories, click here.

Male catkin of the goat willow

Continuing the theme of recent nature posts on catkins and cones, this item features a photo of the male catkin of the goat willow (Salix caprea), replete with anthers bearing bright-yellow pollen.

20 March 2014

Pollen and male cones of Lawson's cypress

The previous post featured the delightful shades of pink provided by the European larch's flowers. Another burst of pink comes from the pollen and small male cones on twig tips of Lawson's cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana). With only a passing glimpse, one might mistake the blaze of colour for a spray of graffiti. The photo in this post provides a close-up look at the cones.

Flowering female cone of the European larch

One of the most beautiful flowers to be found on a common tree of British woodland is that of the female cone of the European larch (Larix decidua). I would argue, and hope that the photo in the post demonstrates, that these are far prettier than, say, a cultivated rose.

19 March 2014

Closer-to-nature silviculture in the real world

by Damien Cox

There is growing interest in a move away from forest management practices involving monoculture cultivation, clearfelling, and short rotation times to a closer-to-nature, continuous-cover forestry. Opposing pressures against such a move are often economical; the perception is that while the ideas put forward under this alternative approach are ecologically attractive, they are economically unviable.

A recent paper (open access) discusses cost-effective ways of increasing species diversity and spatial variability in forests. What is particularly important about this publication is that it describes concrete, economically viable practices to achieve these goals: specifics often lacking in publications advocating SFM (sustainable forestry management) and closer-to-nature forestry practices.

18 March 2014

Common toad

Of all the features of the common toad (Bufo bufo), its locomotion is the one that for me best distinguishes it from the common frog. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of witnessing the slow, steady walk of a female, with a male on her back (pictured in this post), during a walk I undertook around some Hertfordshire woodland. I spotted them completing a crossing of a quiet road and felt fortunate to be on hand to wave one over-sized wagon clear of the pair to prevent the occurrence of a terrible accident.

Lizard species affected differently by varying burning and thinning of pine–hardwood forests in Alabama

Anthropogenic forest disturbances, such as controlled fire and creation of canopy gaps, can be employed to mimic natural patterns of disturbance with a view to improving ecosystem health. In the paper described here (Sutton et al., 2014), the researchers evaluated the responses of lizards to prescribed burning and thinning in pine–hardwood forests in Alabama.

12 March 2014

Unintended cascading effects on forest ecosystems from control of an apex predator in Australia

The complexities of multi-layered ecological interactions mean that it is difficult to predict what cascading effects the removal of apex predators in any ecosystem might trigger. Therefore, when there is deliberate removal of such a predator, there is a high risk of unintended and unexpected consequences, and these are generally to the detriment of ecosystem organization and biodiversity.

In the paper described here (Colman et al., 2014), the authors report on research into the impact on forest ecosystems of interactions between the effects on herbivores and mesopredators subsequent to apex predator removal (typically, the authors note, these effects have only been considered in isolation). The apex predator that they studied is the dingo (Canis dingo), populations of which authorities in Australia suppress using poisoned meat baits, among other techniques.

11 March 2014

Which faunal de-extinction candidates could have a major impact on forest ecosystems?

Technological advances have brought faunal de-extinction from the realm of science fiction to the horizon of possibility. As such, there are emerging discussions on the potential ecological implications. Among the literature is a recent paper by Seddon et al. in Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

The authors first explain why they agree with the view that, for practical purposes, de-extinction can be considered a "conservation translocation issue" and then outline a series of ten questions that can be used as a tool for first-pass screening of candidate species, illustrating their application with three worked examples. The questions cover the topics of: past, current, and future threats; biological feasibility; social feasibility; risk assessment; and reversibility.

In reading the paper I was most interested to know which of the candidate species could have a particularly marked impact on forest ecosystems.

Lesser celandine

If lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) flowered amid the rush of late spring and summer ground-layer colours, it would perhaps not be as memorable a British hedgerow and woodland species as it is. But flowering as it does before the mass distractions provided by bluebells, in particular, and many other species besides, it has cut out something of a niche. I think the flowers are particularly attractive before they have fully opened, when the streaks of green on the under-side of the petals are prominently displayed (as shown in the photo accompanying this post).

10 March 2014

Catkins of the common alder

The British spring arrives with so many memorable sights, sounds, and smells. As I write this, for instance, there is a chorus of croaking coming in through the window, courtesy of the common frogs in my small garden pond (of which I counted twelve a little earlier). Perhaps one of the more underrated signs is the opening-up of the catkins of the common alder, which occurs towards the end of winter and adds the spectacular golden-yellow colour of the anthers to the purplish red that has been on show since earlier in the season.

28 February 2014

Research blast: Habitat ecology (28-02-14)

This post briefly summarizes findings from four recent studies relating to habitat ecology and provides links to the full papers (a log-in or purchase may be required for access).

For a description of this and other research blast categories, click here.

26 February 2014

Research blast: Stand dynamics (26-02-14)

This post briefly summarizes findings from five recent studies relating to stand dynamics and provides links to the full papers (a log-in or purchase may be required for access).

For a description of this and other research blast categories, click here.

25 February 2014

Research blast: Policy and management (25-02-14)


This post briefly summarizes findings from four recent studies relating to policy and management and provides links to the full papers (a log-in or purchase may be required for access).

For a description of this and other research blast categories, click here.