Vol. 30, No. 07 - July 12, 2018

Environmental implications of harvesting lower-value forest biomass summarized

Following commercial timber harvests, large quantities of “lower-value biomass” (LVB) such as logging residues are often left on site. Over the last decade, interest in potentially using LVB as feedstock for renewable energy has increased. Removing excessive amounts of woody debris can also reduce the costs of site preparation, reduce wildfire risk, and enhance habitat for some species such as those associated with abundant herbaceous understory vegetation. However, LVB provides important ecological functions related to habitat and the cycling of water, carbon, and nutrients. Recently, scientists with NCASI developed a publication that summarizes key literature on factors affecting the potentially available supply of LVB, and the environmental implications of harvesting it. The paper also discusses certification provisions and guidelines pertaining to harvesting and management of this material.

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Federal agencies issue supplemental proposal on repeal of Waters of the US Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Army have issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking to the July 2017 proposed action to repeal the 2015 definition of “waters of the United States.” The supplemental notice, which appears in the July 12, 2018, issue of the Federal Register (83 FR 32227-32252), clarifies that the agencies are proposing to permanently repeal the 2015 Rule in its entirety and recodify the pre-2015 regulations while the agencies finalize a new definition of “waters of the United States.” The regulatory definitions that existed prior to the 2015 definition of “waters of the United States” are currently being implemented by the agencies.

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NCASI scientist proposes framework for assessing extinction risk due to climate change

The possibility of species extinctions due to climate change is an issue of concern to forest managers. Recently, in a paper published in Ecological Modelling, Dr. Craig Loehle of NCASI proposed a framework for conducting analyses of extinction risk by considering information about species’ tolerance of environmental change, longevity, and migration potential. The paper shows that, because of factors such as these, responses by some species to climate change may be prolonged.

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Studies of managed forest carbon budgets reviewed

Forests play an important role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions because trees sequester carbon and wood can replace fossil fuels as an energy source. In the U.S., carbon stored each year in forests and forest products are estimated to offset 10–20 percent of carbon emissions. Multiple studies have sought to document the inventory of carbon in various pools associated with managed forests and the balance of exchange between those pools. Recently, a paper by Dr. Eric D. Vance of NCASI (retired), which was published in Forest Ecology and Management, summarized major findings from studies of managed forest carbon budgets published over the last decade.

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Technical session at SAF Convention

In October, a scientific / technical session at the 2018 Society of American Foresters Annual Convention in Portland, Oregon, will explore results emerging from experimental research and modeling studies examining the relationships between contemporary forest management practices and water quality and quantity. The session, titled “Evaluating the Effects of Contemporary Forest Practices on Water Quality and Quantity,” was organized by Drs. Ashley Coble and Erik Schilling of NCASI, along with Maryanne Reiter and Dr. Jami Nettles of Weyerhaeuser Company.

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