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Interesting Research News and Tools for Landowners

Posted: April 17, 2014

Throughout the month we receive notice of interesting and relevant research and items. These items come from partner organizations. We'll use this space to share these items with you.

What chickadees are telling us about climate change

A 15-year research project that uses fake dead trees as nests supports what birders have been noticing anecdotally.

Salamanders shrinking as their mountain havens heat up

Salamanders in some of North America's best habitat are shrinking fast as their surroundings get warmer and drier, forcing them to burn more energy. A new article examines specimens caught in the Appalachian Mountains from 1957 to 2007 and wild salamanders caught at the same sites in 2011-2012. Animals measured after 1980 averaged 8 percent smaller -- one of the fastest rates of changing body size ever recorded.

Using more wood for construction can slash global reliance on fossil fuels

Increasing the wood harvest to the equivalent of 34 percent or more of annual wood growth to meet construction demands worldwide could drastically reduce the global reliance on fossil fuels while protecting biodiversity and carbon storage capacity, according to a new study.

Do not prune during oak wilt risk period

Oak wilt is an aggressive disease that affects many species of oak (Quercus spp.). It is one of the most serious tree diseases in the eastern United States, killing thousands of oaks each year in forests, woodlots, and home landscapes.

Oak wilt was first identified in 1944. The fungal pathogen that causes the disease, Ceratocystis fagacearum, is thought by most to be native to the eastern United States, but difficulty in isolating and identifying the fungus delayed recognition of the extent of its impact until the 1980s. Some plant pathologists think that oak wilt is an exotic disease, arriving in North America in the early 1900s, but the fungus has never been reported from any country other than the United States. The disease has also become much more apparent in some local areas since the 1980s because of increased tree wounding, due primarily to home construction in oak woods.

Oak trees are at high risk when oak wilt fungal mats are present on trees killed the previous year by the disease and when nitidulids (sap-feeding beetles) are active. The onset of high risk occurs earlier as you go farther south and varies with weather conditions. The "rule of thumb" is to avoid pruning or wounding oaks during the months of April, May, and June. In 2012, spring (and the high risk period) arrived earlier than usual, and in 2013 it arrived later. Nitidulids, carrying spores of the fungus, can be attracted to fresh wounds on oak trees. When nitidulids visit these wounds spores can be transferred to the oaks, initiating oak wilt disease infections. To avoid infection, all wounds to oak in the spring should be treated immediately with wound dressing or paint. New symptoms of oak wilt disease usually are apparent in July and August. More information can be found in the publication linked above.

DCNR gauging past frigid winter’s effect on forest insect pests

The past winter of seemingly unending snowstorms and frigid temperatures has proved to be a strong ally for state woodland managers battling the No. 1 enemy of Pennsylvania hemlocks, but the reprieve could be short-lived, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officials said recently.

Disclaimer: Information presented here is provided as a general information resource. Any mention of commercial products is for information only; it does not imply recommendation or endorsement.