Archive for the ‘Forestry’ Category

Livingston Beech Research Noted in Sun Journal

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

A Lewiston Sun Journal article about the prevalence of fungi and insects that are damaging Maine’s beech trees included research from Bill Livingston of UMaine’s School of Forest Resources. Livingston found warmer winter temperatures from 1999 to 2002 allowed populations of an invasive, bark-feeding scale insect to explode, resulting in beech trunks turning white with millions of scale insects. Insect feeding and severe drought at the time weakened the trees’ resistance to fungal infections, and many trees died. More information is available in a UMaine news release.

UMaine Developing Database for ‘Cradle to Grave’ Sustainability

Friday, December 16th, 2011

University of Maine industrial ecologist and certified Life Cycle Assessment professional Anthony Halog has received a $150,000 federal grant to create a comprehensive new online database to allow researchers, scientists and industrialists to assess ecological, social and economic implications of new and emerging products, starting with wood-based biofuels.

Halog says the database will benefit Maine and other states with an economic reliance on forestry, and could become a national model for assessing how “green” new and emerging products are, and what advantages or disadvantages come with the manufacture or provision of various services and products.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a global environmental initiative to assess products from “cradle to grave,” according to Halog. It objectively examines how much the creation, distribution, use and eventual disposal of products affects natural resources and the environment.

“The trend is to make any product environmentally sustainable,” says Halog, a School of Forest Resources faculty member. “Any product, existing or emerging, if you want the product to be greener, and more ecologically benign, you can apply a life cycle assessment. At every stage of the supply chain, there are stakeholders. Each has specific environmental, social and economic interests. This database looks at every stage of the supply chain.”

Halog’s database is being created as an XML (extended markup language) database with assistance from Ph.D. students Nana Awuah Bortsie-Aryee and Binod Neupane. It will be a computer-based, standardized decision support system to help supply chain stakeholders understand the sustainability of developing forest-based bioenergy in the Northeast.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Sustainable Bioenergy Grant program is funding the project. Halog expects the preliminary database to be available on the Internet in the summer of 2012.

The “one-stop database,” Halog says, will include environmental emissions data, in addition to economic and social data, which include jobs creation, for biofuels development.

A standardized and publicly accessible LCA database also will curb the practice of “greenwashing,” when manufacturers make false claims about a product’s sustainability.

The database is starting with life cycle sustainability assessments of forest-based biofuels being developed at the University of Maine.

“The usefulness of this database is if you scale up the technology, is it environmentally competitive with corn-based fuels?” Halog says. “Here in Maine, we’re interested to know if we scale up production, will it be profitable and sustainable?”

Corn-based fuels, for instance, were once considered a technological breakthrough in the emerging field of ethanol and biofuel development, but detrimental effects on food production, land and water use, and the energy needed to produce it, has resulted in decreasing interest and research funding for its development, Halog says. An LCA might have projected the product’s long-term deficiencies, he says.

The database will be one of the latest attempts to contribute to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiative on “Towards a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment: (LCSA) Making Informed Choices on Products.”

Contact: Anthony Halog, (207) 581-2944

Warmer Winters Bad for Beeches

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Maine’s beech trees have been under attack for decades by a disease that typically shows up as disfiguring cankers on a tree species that is supposed to have a smooth and silvery bark. Affected trees grow slowly and can survive for years. Unfortunately, the diseased trees produce few beechnuts, a loss of an important food source for the Maine black bear.

Beech TreeAccording to University of Maine researcher William Livingston of the School of Forest Resources, warmer winter temperatures from 1999 to 2002 allowed populations of the invasive, bark-feeding scale insect to explode, resulting in beech trunks turning white with millions of scale insects. Insect feeding and the severe drought at that time weakened the trees’ resistance to fungal infection and many trees died, including those along the Quebec border.

Beech bark disease has been recorded and monitored in Maine since at least 1932. It is now widespread in southern and eastern areas of the state. However, for 70 years trees along the border between western Aroostook County and the Canadian province of Quebec were free of disease and maintained healthy growth.

But in 2003, beech tree mortality in that area increased 31 percent over the year before. Mortality rates in northern Somerset, Penobscot and Piscataquis counties also increased sharply. Both diseased and healthy trees that had survived for decades began to die.

Livingston and Matthew Kasson, a former UMaine graduate student now at Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Plant Pathology, sampled hundreds of trees in the study area. They found a heightened incidence and severity of beech bark mortality and widespread presence of the fungus Neonectria. By taking core samples of the affected trees and comparing growth patterns to meteorological records, the researchers determined that the diseased and dying beeches had been weakened by dense populations of the invasive scale insect Cryptococcus fagisuga, which was favored by drought conditions and warmer winter temperatures from 1999 to 2002.

After 2002, typical sub-zero winter temperatures and normal summer rains returned, and the scale populations disappeared. However, the damage was done and beech trees died from 2003 to 2005.

“Even though [beech bark disease] has been in Maine for decades, combinations of warmer winters and droughts are associated with unprecedented levels of beech tree mortality,” according to Livingston and Kasson, who published their findings in the journal Forest Pathology.

If the warm start to the 2011-12 winter is an indicator of moderate temperatures for the coming season, forest health specialists will closely monitor beech scale populations in the year ahead. Tough times may be coming again to the beech forests of Maine.

Contact: Meg Haskell, 207-581-3766
William Livingston, 207-581-2990

Forester Available for Holiday Tree Cutting, Care Advice

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

University of Maine forest resources instructor Louis Morin is available to discuss proper selection, cutting and care of live holiday trees to keep them healthy — and safe — inside the home.

While many people like the convenience of an artificial tree in the home, others enjoy the tradition of heading out with the family to cut their own or buy a freshly cut tree. Buying a tree from a local tree farm helps the local economy, Morin says, and the environmental impact of tree farms is substantial. A tree farm converts carbon dioxide to oxygen, thus removing carbon from the atmosphere, he explains. A young stand also is more aggressive in removing carbon from the air than an older, larger stand.

Morin says there’s more to keeping indoor holiday trees beautiful and healthy through the holidays than just watering it to retain fragrant, hearty needles. The key to getting the most out of a tree has a lot to do with the health of the tree and when it is cut, he says.

It’s best to cut before the ground freezes, but after a couple of good hard frosts to ensure that the tree still has some life-sustaining sap left in it. Whether a balsam fir, renowned for fragrance, or a Fraser fir, known for long-lasting, blue-green needles, all trees react to the approach of freezing temperatures and instinctively drain their sap so it won’t freeze, swell and crack the wood, Morin says.

While aesthetics are important, safety is more so, Morin adds. If a tree stand dries up, the cambium layer, the circulatory system for a tree, dries up and seals itself, preventing water absorption from that point on. Some trees can require as much as two liters of water a day.

“As the tree dries out, it becomes very flammable,” he says. Consumers should take care to keep candles or any other source of flame at a safe distance, and select lighting that is not prone to heating up.

Before setting the tree in its stand, Morin suggests using a utility knife to cut a beveled edge around the trunk of the tree exposing cambium layer, then fill the stand with hot water – not quite boiling – for its first watering. This stimulates the capillary action and trees begin drawing water.

Morin can be reached at 581-2854 or by email at lmorin@maine.edu for other holiday tree tips. In addition, a Cooperative Extension online video has advice for sustainably harvesting balsam fir tips for wreath-making.

Contact: Louis Morin, 581-2854

Halog Receives Global Sustainability Research Fellowship

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Anthony Halog, assistant UMaine professor in Industrial Ecology, LCA and Systems Sustainability, has been awarded a month-long Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) “bridge” research fellowship to establish research networks with Japanese researchers.

Halog is a previous recipient of a JSPS two-year postdoctoral fellowship. The new grant is awarded to create and strengthen interdisciplinary, international scientific networks for research activities to develop new and effective global environmental and sustainability strategies to reduce global warming and pursue a low-carbon economy.

He intends to strengthen relationships with leading Japanese scientists and scholars at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, National Institute of Environmental Studies, University of Tokyo, United Nations University and Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. He also will introduce Japanese students to graduate studies options in industrial ecology and environmental sustainability at UMaine’s School of Forest Resources.

Contact: Anthony Halog, (207) 581-2944

UMaine Experts Available for Foliage Assessment

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

With fall foliage turning red, orange, yellow and brown in the northern parts of Maine, University of Maine experts are available to discuss the state of developing fall foliage, how it bolsters Maine’s tourism and ideas on how thoughtful landscaping can create more colorful backyards as seasons change.

UMaine professor of forest resources Bill Livingston and professor of tree physiology Mike Day, both in the UMaine School of Forestry, are available to discuss the state of fall foliage and what environmental conditions influence color.

“It has the potential to be a very good season, because of the amount of precipitation we’ve had,” says Livingston. “Cold nights, which we’re not getting, also help with foliage.”

In addition, Lois Berg Stack, a UMaine Cooperative Extension professor and ornamental horticulturist, says residents can choose perennials that flower at different times during the spring, summer and fall to provide ever-changing backyard coloration.

Fall also is a good time to take notes on which native trees provide great fall colors, then consider planting some in the back yard in the spring.

“Here are a few native trees people might view this fall: trees with red fall foliage, consider red maple or red oak; trees with yellow fall foliage, think green ash, larch, birch or white oak; white ash, American hornbeam and sweetgum are trees with great color mixes,” she says. “For shrub fall color, nothing beats the blueberry barrens, or the red fruits of winterberry.”

Fall foliage in Maine is more than picturesque, according to Maine Business School marketing professor Harold Daniel, who assisted in founding the university Center for Tourism Research and Outreach. Fall foliage extends the summer tourist season into fall, shortening the “shoulder” season. Daniel suspects the economic impact of this seasonal bridge is likely to be greater in this concentrated time than at any time in the summer.

Livingston can be reached at (207) 581-2990 or williaml@maine.edu. Day can be reached at (207) 581-2889 or daym@maine.edu. Stack can be reached at (207) 581-2890 or lstack@maine.edu. Daniel can be reached at (207) 581-1933 or hdaniel@maine.edu.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

Researchers awarded grant to develop cellulose nanocomposite materials

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

The field of nanoscience has shown that the smallest of particles are sometimes the strongest. Research into these infinitesimal objects – whose dimensions range from a few nanometers to less than 100 nanometers; by comparison, a sheet of paper has a thickness of 100,000 nanometers – has also shown these particles are well-suited for use in materials that must by necessity be lightweight and flexible.

Doug Gardner, a University of Maine professor of wood science and technology, has been awarded a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory for his research into developing to produce powders made from nanoscale cellulosic particles, known as cellulose nanofibrils or CNF.

“Cellulose derived from wood – Maine’s most abundant natural resource – is a promising source for low-cost, renewable nano-structured materials,” Gardner said.
The composite materials produced with CNF will eventually be used in building materials, automobile parts, wind energy components and other green materials. The particles are recognized as having superior mechanical properties and can be produced at a lower cost than other nanofiller materials.

The USDA grant will kick off a five-year research project that aims to address some of the barriers to producing commercially viable CNFs, including the breaking down of biomass to components below the fiber level while preserving favorable nano properties.

Research into cellulose nanofibrils is a priority for the Department of Agriculture, which is seeking to develop efficient processing methods to create novel materials for use in advanced composites, high-end additives and fillers for high-end construction and manufacturing systems.

Yoosoo Han, UMaine biocomposite specialist in the AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center and graduate faculty in forest resources, is also involved in the CNF research.

Gardner, who is affiliated with UMaine’s School of Forest Resources, the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, and the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute, is a UMaine graduate.

Contact: Doug Gardner, (207) 581-2846 or douglas.gardner@umit.maine.edu; Jessica Bloch, (207) 581-3777 or jessica.bloch@umit.maine.edu

Newspaper Previews Retired Professor’s Appalachian Trail Book

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

The Lewiston Sun Journal has a story about a book written by David B. Field, a retired UMaine professor of forest resources who is also a UMaine graduate. “Images of America: Along Maine’s Appalachian Trail” illustrates the history of the trail’s mountains and forests in Maine. Field maintained six miles of the scenic trail for 54 years and served as an officer of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and on the board of managers of the Appalachian Trail Conference.

Grad Student Interviewed about Emerald Ash Borer Bio-Surveillance

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

UMaine graduate student Tawny Virgilio was interviewed Thursday by Channel 5 (WABI) for an evening news broadcast about a bio-surveillance project she’s doing under the supervision of entomology professor Eleanor Groden to determine the hunting habits of a wasp that catches beetles, including the destructive emerald ask borer. The wasp Cerceris fumipennis doesn’t sting people, and may provide entomologists and Maine forestry researchers another way to determine if the emerald ash borer beetle exists yet in Maine.

UMaine Sustainability Initiative Noted

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

The website for Biomass Magazine has a story about an effort to study biomass in northern Maine which is being funded by UMaine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative. UMaine-Fort Kent researcher Brian Kermath, the director of the school’s Center for Rural Sustainable Development, told the magazine his center is partnering with SSI on a project that will assess the potential to generate biomass from forest and agriculture.