Christin Buhl, Oregon Department of Forestry Entomologist

Western redcedar bark and fronds

From Oregon through western Canada, western redcedar (Thuja plicata, WRC) has been dying in areas where it should be thriving, such as along streams and within closed canopies. The cause for this sometimes sudden and expanding dieback is currently unknown. Insects and diseases of WRC are typically secondary, meaning that they are not direct tree killers but are opportunistic pests and can only attack dead and dying trees. Redcedar can even tolerate endemic levels of bark beetles and stem decay for many years. These known pests have not always been found in dieback pockets nor have novel pests been observed.

The predominant theory for sudden mortality is that trees may be impacted by a changing climate, including increasing average temperatures and drought stress in the form of reduced and inconsistent precipitation. Even shaded sites along streams are at risk due to higher than usual average temperatures and reduced stream flow. Western redcedar is a species more sensitive to slight changes in abiotic conditions and may be crossing the lower limits of where they can thrive in some areas.

Looking for the cause

A team including Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), Washington Department of Natural Resources (WADNR), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), various university researchers and natural resource agencies are collaborating to collect locations to determine the distribution and possible cause(s) of dieback. We are mapping locations of dieback and monitoring some of these sites over the long-term.

We are now asking for your help in identifying sites of where dieback and tree decline is occurring. We are looking for pockets of dieback containing at least two mature trees with any of the following symptoms:

Do not report sites where the cause of dieback is known (e.g., mechanical damage, single sun-exposed trees, decadent old growth candelabra crowns or symptomatic trees in known root disease pockets) or trees with normal, seasonal dieback of older needles rather than whole-branch mortality.

Lastly, western redcedar may be confused with the other two species that we call “cedar”: incense cedar and Port Orford cedar (none are true cedar, which do not occur naturally in the PNW).The easiest way to identify western redcedar is by looking at the cones.

Western redcedar produces cones that look like woody roses, incense cedar has larger cones that split open like duck bills, and Port Orford cedar has cones that resemble soccer balls. Assist us in this effort to understand what is happening with this majestic staple of Pacific Northwest forests and urban areas.

Are you seeing these symptoms on western redcedar in your area? We need your help locating and reporting dying and symptomatic WRC across the species distribution!

Please submit GPS locations of western redcedar dieback: Christine Buhl, ODF Entomologist in Oregon (christine.j.buhl@oregon.gov)

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Back in February I introduced readers to a new initiative that OSU Extension has begun to learn more about how native bees use managed forests. Our first season of data collection is now in the books. I’d like to explain a bit more about how we designed this project and some early takeaways.

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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

A bumblebee on a lavender flower. Photo credit: David Cappaert, bugwood.org.

The health of insect pollinators is an issue of increasing concern and attention.  Both managed bees (honeybees) and native bees face various threats, including diseases, chemical use, and loss of suitable habitat. While pollinators can include other insects (flies, butterflies, etc.), bees are considered some of the most important. Without healthy bee populations, many flowering crops we humans depend on would not flourish; and native ecosystems that other animals depend on would be impaired.

Because many individuals and organizations are interested in protecting and conserving bees in Oregon, the Oregon Bee Project came into being in order to be a clearinghouse of information, a facilitator of bee conservation and education initiatives. Last week the Oregon Bee Project hosted the PNW Pollinator Summit in Corvallis, a two-day conference designed to bring together researchers, Extension, non-profits, and other groups that are involved in pollinator conservation. I got to attend and was especially interested in the presentations and field trip focused on forests and forestry. Continue reading

An Interview with Cory Garms, PhD Student – Oregon State University

Edited by Lauren Grand, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent – Lane County

Drones are becoming more popular to use in forestry. With recent innovations, small landowners are beginning to gain more affordable access to this useful new technology. I spoke to Cory Garms, a PhD student at Oregon State University, about what small acreage landowners might want to know about using drones to survey their own property.

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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington, & Yamhill Counties

Last week I attended Forest Health: State of the State, a biannual conference put on by OSU College of Forestry. A packed agenda covered insects, diseases, fire, drought, invasive species, climate change, and other topics. I always look forward to this meeting as an opportunity to brush up on my knowledge of these issues. The speakers came from various backgrounds, representing the many forest ecosystems and ownership types we have across the state, and the audience was equally diverse. With that in mind, I’ve tried to distill the takeaways from the conference that seem most relevant to small woodland ownerships in northwest Oregon.

ODF conducts an annual insect and disease aerial survey. Click on the image to be taken to a short video from the air.

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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Lately on this blog we’ve been discussing ways to grow a diverse forest.  Many small woodland owners are interested in maintaining diversity on their land, yet strive to do it in a way that also brings in income from timber or other means. For these reasons, I was intrigued by the work of Julian Geisel, who recently wrapped up his master’s degree in the College of Forestry at OSU. His research topic, “Management Strategies for Small, Income Generating and Structurally Diverse Forests” is particularly relevant to small woodland owners. Julian’s research focused on private woodlands in western Oregon, representative of the vast majority of the owners that we work with in Extension. I interviewed Julian about his work. Continue reading

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

 

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photo: VMRC

Last month I spent a morning at OSU attending the annual science meeting of the Vegetation Management Research Cooperative (VMRC). It was well worth the time.

The VMRC’s mission includes conducting applied reforestation research of young plantations from seedling establishment through crown closure and, to promote reforestation success. The VMRC’s research has an emphasis on practical, operational vegetation control, and their research is broadly relevant and readily applied to the needs of family forest landowners, so I do try to keep up on their work.
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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

I don’t need to tell you it’s hot out there today. (Oops! I just did. Sorry.) temp 7.31.15

Between the extreme heat and the very real fire danger, it’s not a good afternoon to be working in the woods.  Rarely do I say I’d rather be in the office than in the field, but today is one of those days that I’m appreciating the air conditioning.

Since everyone is talking about the weather anyhow, it seems appropriate to share some reading material that relates to it, which you can enjoy in the comfort of whatever cool spot you’ve found today.  Oregon Forests and Climate Change is the subject of a little writing project which a number of my Extension colleagues have taken on as a group. Continue reading

A Swiss Needle Cast affected tree
A Swiss Needle Cast affected tree

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn & Polk Counties

 

The short answer, unfortunately is ”yes”, but the news was clearly mixed when researches and land managers gathered for the Annual Meeting of the Swiss Needle Cast Coop (SNCC) in Corvallis on December 4. They met to review progress in learning more about this native disease, how it affects trees and forests, and how to manage forests in the affected areas.

The meeting included updates on this year’s aerial survey, progress in establishing the next generation of research plots across western Oregon, the effects of thinning and other management activities on foliage retention and growth, and improvements in remote sensing and growth modeling abilities. Some of the things I picked up this year included:

  • The disease is intensifying but not expanding greatly. That is to say, we are certainly seeing more severe disease symptoms in places, but mostly within areas where it has been a problem before, and the footprint of highly affected area does not seem to be growing very dramatically. The disease was detected on over 586,000 acres in 2014, which is up significantly from 18 years earlier (131,000 acres in 1996). The main area of impact remains near the coast, generally within 25 miles, except for an active area around Mary’s Peak.
  • Thinning pre-commercially does seem to help improve needle retention, but only in the healthiest trees and in the lower part of the live crown.
  • Unlike other stressors, such as drought, it seems that SNC-weakened trees are not highly attractive to Douglas-fir beetles.

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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

A sculpture of DNA among the trees. Photo credit: Aras Bilgen, Flickr Creative Commons
A sculpture of DNA among the trees. Photo credit: Aras Bilgen, Flickr Creative Commons

This week, the closest contest of last November’s election – the GMO labeling initiative – was finally put to rest after a recount.  The measure ultimately failed by a tiny margin, but it did a lot to put GMO’s into the public spotlight. Of course, the ballot measure had to do with food labeling, not trees, but it got me thinking that it might be worth looking at how GMOs relate to forestry.

What is a GMO?

In case you were not following along during election season, let’s start with a definition. A GMO is an organism whose genes have been directly altered by humans, in a laboratory, through genetic engineering within individual cells. GMO methods can be used to modify an organism’s own DNA or to insert DNA from another organism. The modified cells then are regenerated into whole organisms. Reasons for doing this might be to improve crop productivity, disease resistance, the nutritional yield of food plants, or resistance to herbicides to facilitate weed control. From the technology itself to the ways that GMO might be used in society, it quickly becomes obvious why GMOs can be very controversial.

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