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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Friday, August 12, 2016

"Hot, dry and windy climatic conditions, not dead tree density, drive fire risk, scientists are increasingly concluding",,,,,,,,,,,"Between 1979 and 2013, increases in temperature and wind speeds combined with a greater number of rain free days to lengthen fire season worldwide by nearly 20% according to a study published in NATURE COMMUNICATIONS"......."As counter-intuitive as it may seem, during extreme drought, green forest may be even more flammable"............."Bark Beetles that denude trees of their needles actually reduce the risk of devastating canopy spreading fire"..........."With the trees needles now on the forest floor, fires cannot climb the dead trees and spread from tree to tree because the canopy is no longer there"............."As a consequence, a number of studies have demonstrated that there is no greater increase in fires in beetle kill area on average than other sites"........... "In some cases, at least until the younger trees start to fill in the forest, fire risk is actually reduced"...........And not only that, but "Standing dead snags are indeed essential to the forest community".......... "They are often centers of activity, providing several services to many forms of life"....... "In some areas, up to 60 separate types of organisms have been observed to inhabit a single snag"................. "Birds, such as flycatchers, swallows and owls use snags as hunting launch pads".................... "They scope out their prey from above, enjoying the snag's high, often hidden perch"................ "And mammals, including flying squirrels and American martens use snags as hideouts and rest spots"

Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke

Another new study published by the Ecological Society of America titled “Does wildfire likelihood increase following insect outbreaks in conifer forests?”  by Garrent Meigs and co authors concludes that bark beetles outbreaks do not lead to greater likelihood of fires. This research joins a growing list of studies, all using different methods of evaluation, that finds that bark beetles are not a driving force in wildfire. Rather climate, terrain, and other factors are more important.
Yet the Forest Service continues to promote the idea that logging beetle kill trees will reduce future fires in direct conflict to contradictory research.
Lodgepole pine is one of the most common trees in the Northern Rockies. For instance, 80% of the trees in Yellowstone National Park are lodgepole pine. However, it is also a common tree in the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, and into British Columbia.
One of the important drivers in lodgepole pine ecology is periodic beetle kill from the mountain pine beetle. Bark beetles are like wolves that thin an elk herd down to its carrying capacity. Typically only the older trees are suitable for attack, so mortality in lodgepole forests is usually less than 50% of trees. The remaining trees, freed up from competition grow much faster and for a while are able to resist any future beetle attacks.
Bark beetles lay their eggs in the inner layer of tree bark where larvae develop. The larvae eat the living layer. A fungi that enters the tree with the bark beetles. The two factors often kill the tree. Leading to a common sight of red-needled trees covering hillsides.
Since beetle mortality usually occurs in a mosaic with patches of dead trees and patches of live tree, the overall ecosystem biodiversity increases. Species dependent on dead trees like cavity nesting birds benefit from beetle kill, while those that might need some live trees—say thermal cover for elk in winter—also benefit. Thus beetles can be thought of a “keystone species” that creates habitat for many other species. Some research suggests that beetles create greater biodiversity overall as a consequence.
Bark beetle numbers surge during drought periods. Trees stressed by drought are unable to cast off beetles. One of the common assumptions behind logging/thinning projects being promoted around the West is that beetle kill will increase fire risk. So the solution to this perception is to log forests to preclude beetle kill by reducing densities and/or to remove existing dead trees to reduce fuels.

However a host of studies demonstrate that beetle killed forests are no more likely to burn than green forests. Indeed, some studies suggest that for a period of time after a bark beetle outbreak, forests are less likely to burn.
This is easily explained by fuels. One of the big misconceptions about wildfire is that fuels drive them and the more biomass, so the thinking goes, the more likely you are to have a major fire. But the “fuels” that carry wildfires are the small flashy fine fuels like pine needles, cones, small branches, not the boles of trees. That is why there are “snags” left after a fire. Most of the tree is not consumed or burned in a wildfire. So once a beetle kill tree loses its needles and the small branches break off in winter storms, they are actually less flammable than live green trees.
In fact, green trees, due to their abundance of resin-filled needles and branches will burn more intensely than dead wood under extreme weather conditions of low humidity, high temperatures and high winds. These are the kind of weather conditions that drive large wildfires.
There is a nuance here, however. As the young trees unaffected by bark beetles grow up in the understory of remaining trees, they do provide more “ladder” fuel that can sometimes increase fire spread for a few decades until the canopy closes and fire risk is again reduced—assuming that conditions for fire spread exist at all during those decades and there are ignitions.
Of course, the other factor in the beetle/fire story has to do with timing of fires in lodgepole pine forests. Lodgepole pine tends to burn at long intervals of hundreds of years. That is because the right combination of wind, humidity, and ignition simply do not exist every year and often for decades or centuries. So while beetles may kill trees, the likelihood that those particular trees will be in the path of a fire is a low probability.
As a consequence a number of studies have demonstrated that there is no greater increase in fires in beetle kill area on average than other sites. In some cases, at least until the younger trees start to fill in the forest, fire risk is actually reduced.
Despite this evidence the Forest Service continues to advocate logging/thinning on the flawed assumption that a reduction in beetle kill trees, will preclude large wildfires. Not only is this not the case but in reality we need large wildfires for the ecological work they do. Even if it were possible to reduce fires we would not to do this.
Some 98% of all beetle outbreaks are in remote areas and the likelihood that they will encounter or threaten homes is extremely small. Nevertheless, it is well established the best way to protect homes from wildfire is not by thinning the forest, but by keeping homes from being built in the “fire plain” in the first place, and for those homes already in the fire plain, reducing the flammability in the home ignition zone (200 feet is all that is need) surrounding a home is the only proven way to safeguard homes.
1. Area burned in the western United States is unaffectedby recent mountain pine beetle outbreaks SarahJ. Harta,1, Tania Schoennagela,b, Thomas T. Veblena, and Teresa B. Chapmana
2. The European spruce bark beetle Ips typographies in a national park: from pest to keystone species Jorg Mu¨ller, Heinz Bußler, Martin Goßner, Thomas Rettelbach, Peter Duelli Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:2979–3001. DOI 10.1007/s10531-008-9409-01
3. Does wildfire likelihood increase following insect outbreaks in conifer forests? GARRETT W. MEIGS,1,3,_ JOHN L. CAMPBELL,1 HAROLD S. J. ZALD,1 JOHN D. BAILEY,1 DAVID C. SHAW,1 AND ROBERT E. KENNEDY 2 July 2015 v Volume 6(7) v Article 118
4. Don’t Blame the Beetles, By Cally Carswell Science 10 OCTOBER 2014 • VOL 346 ISSUE 6206
5. Fire severity and tree regeneration following bark beetle outbreaks: the role of outbreak stage and burning conditions .Brian J. Harvey 1a, Daniel C. Donato1, William H. Romme2, Monica G. Turner1, Ecological Society of America
6. The influence of mountain pine beetle outbreaks and drought on severe wildfires in northwestern Colorado and southern Wyoming: A look at the past century Dominik Kulakowski ⇑, Daniel Jarvis, Forest Ecology and Management 262 (2011) 1686–1696
7. Management for Mountain Pine Beetle Outbreak Suppression: Does Relevant Science Support Current Policy? Diana L. Six 1,*, Eric Biber 2 and Elisabeth Long 2 Forests 2014, 5, 103-133; doi:10.3390/f5010103
8. Are density reduction treatments effective at managing for resistance or resilience to spruce beetle disturbance in the southern Rocky Mountains? Christian Temperli a,⇑, Sarah J. Hart a, Thomas T. Veblen a, Dominik Kulakowski b, Julia J. Hicks a, Robert Andrus a Forest Ecology and Management 334 (2014) 53–63
9. Bark Beetles and Fire;: Two Forces of Nature Transforming Western Forests FIRE SCIENCE DIGEST ISSUE 12 FEBRUARY 2012
10. Bark beetle outbreaks, wildfires and defensible space: how much area do we need to treat to protect homes and communities? Glen AronsonA and Dominik Kulakowski International Journal of Wildland Fire 2013, 22, 256–265
George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

California plans to log its drought-killed trees

Cutting down dead trees may not reduce wildfire risk.

'Field Notes': Why Dead Standing Trees Are Essential To Forests

  APR 17, 2016
One of my favorite places to look in the forest is up. I love the way trees frame patches of sky, and how rays of sun slide over the branches and slant into pockets of darkness. On a recent stroll through the woods near Echo lake, I found myself, as usual, looking up. I saw mostly fir and birch trees, and I took their narrow trunks and modest heights as signs of a young forest. But it was a much older tree that caught my eye.

Burnt snags in western Montana.

A hulking snag towered some 15 feet above the forest’s thin canopy, charred a uniform black from the ground all the way up to its sharp tip. There were few other signs of fire, and I figured this snag had probably burned years before the trees around it were even saplings.
So the burnt snag was a survivor, one of the last remnants of a different forest that was now long gone. But I wondered, do snags actually serve a purpose? What creatures could possibly make use of this dark, uninviting carcass?
Standing dead snags are indeed essential to the forest community. They are often centers of activity, providing several services to many forms of life. In some areas, up to 60 separate types of organisms have been observed to inhabit a single snag.
Technically speaking, a snag is an upright section of a dead tree stem. They are at least six inches in diameter and over 20 feet high, but snags come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Each snag is classified as hard or soft, which determines the plants and animals that will most likely be found inside. A hard snag is younger, burnt more recently, and may still have some bark and branches. A snag softens as it ages. In its most advanced stage it falls over and becomes a log, performing a different set of forest functions.
While it remains standing, which can be decades, a single snag crawls with moss, lichens, fungi and invertebrates, as well as several birds, bats and mammals like flying squirrels and martens.
The highest profile snag-users though may be cavity-nesters. As the name suggests, these are birds that take advantage of a snag's softening wood, and carve out little caves for themselves, or sometimes use already-existing hollows in a tree.
Woodpeckers are an especially noisy type of cavity-nester, and are highly-adapted to using snags. They test each dead tree for hardness, boring into its wood and listening for a special resonance that indicates a soft core, and thus a potential home. The softer the tree, the easier the nesting, and tatttooed snags, pecked and rejected throughout the forest, suggest woodpeckers can be fairly choosy in their snag-selection process.
But snags offer more than just a home for the cavity-nester. Both black-backed and three-toed woodpeckers seek out burnt snags for both shelter and food. Many cavity nesters eat mostly beetles and larvae, which are found under burned bark. Think of the snag as a one-stop shop for forest creatures.
What's more, the beetles depend on snags, too. Many types thrive on nutrients under snag bark, and even have special skills to find burnt trees. Melanophila beetles, for example, have infrared sensors that can detect charred groups of trees from up to 100 miles away.
And that's not all. Other birds, such as flycatchers, swallows and owls use snags as hunting launch pads. They scope out their prey from above, enjoying the snag's high, often hidden perch. And mammals, including flying squirrels and American martens use snags as hideouts and rest spots.

So next time you're in the forest, pause for a moment at the foot of an old snag. Maybe you'll hear the tap-tap-tap of a woodpecker's beak, echoing through a quiet forest, or be lucky enough to glimpse an owl tucked into a rotting tree trunk. Perhaps you'll let your eyes wander up its trunk, and you'll appreciate, as I did, how the great snag grabs your gaze, pulls it up, and throws it straight at the sky.

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