NE2101: Eastern White Pine Health and Responses to Environmental Changes

(Multistate Research Project)

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Title:  Managing Eastern White Pine Health and Forest Responses to a Changing Environment

Start Date: October 2021

End Year: 2026

Overall hypothesis or goal: Climate-adapted management (CAM), i.e., silvicultural strategies that increase tree vigor and wood value, will enhance health, services, productivity, resilience & utilization of forest ecosystems, while targeted decision tools and extension/education will increase social acceptance and use of management practices for forest systems across broad spatial scales.

Specific Objectives (Long-term underlined, short-term follow)

  1. Assess, evaluate, and forecast forest productivity and sustainability over 25 years by writing proposals and receiving funding to establishing the Eastern White Pine Permanent Plot Network to meet three uses: intensive tree measurements, ecosystem services measurements, and demonstration of CAM benefits. Management treatments will be established on permanent plots in EWP forests and tracked through time.  The innovative network of forests dedicated to long-term observations on the benefits of forest management will be established across the EWP range, from NC to ME to WI.
  2. Use interdisciplinary research to assess CAM effects on ecosystem services and reduce losses associated with insects, fungal pathogens, and drought. The demonstration forest network will also include i) quantifying current status of insect pests, fungal pathogens; ii) assessing similarities and differences in health problems; and iii) writing additional proposals to conduct transdisciplinary research to assess forest health, climate, and management interactions.
  3. Improve local rural economies by assessing eastern white pine product and market opportunities across the range.  
  4. Transfer knowledge on CAM to students, land managers, and surrounding communities. This will be achieved writing a proposal and receiving funding to: i) host hands-on field workshops; ii) conduct multi-media technology-transfer programs that will prepare managers to implement best practices; and iii) develop a strategic multi-dimensional outreach program that will help surrounding communities understand and support management practices enhancing forest health and productivity.

The need as indicated by stakeholders.

Eastern white pine (EWP) is a major component of the eastern forest with over 186 million mbf (15 billion ft3) in 25 states. The resource can be underutilized as 10 states now have over 5 million mbf, but only 4 of them harvest more than 1.5% of the available resource. In Maine, EWP saw logs can sell for $190 to $300 mbf-1, but in another states, logs sell for $20-$80 mbf-1 despite being abundant. The species responds extremely well to management as it can naturally regenerate after harvesting and continues rapid growth at even large sizes (>20 in. DBH) if densities are kept low. Managing stand densities can also ameliorate losses due to drought, fungal pathogens, and insect pests. Unmanaged stands can suffer mortality over 50%, but general social resistance to harvesting can hinder proper management, and investments are often not made. 

This project provides an ideal forest system that supports and highlights goals that are found in all Forest Action Plans (https://www.stateforesters.org/forest-action-plans/) in the region.  One common goal is to protect and manage forests from threats.  The health of white pine is adversely affected by invasive organism (white pine blister rust) and native pests and disease (white pine weevil, pine bast scale, Caliciopsis canker, needle pathogens).  Changing climate results in more weather extremes resulting in drought damage (growth loss, increased susceptibility to pathogen damage) or increased white pine needle damage due to high precipitation amounts in the spring.  Changing land use, especially field abandonment, creates un-natural conditions under which developing white pine stands are suffering from weevil damage and drought stress.

 The importance of the work, and what the consequences are if it is not done.

Lack of EWP management has adverse effects on eastern white pine forests such that some states have low number of regenerating stems to replace older trees while other states have dense stands that increase the risk of damage due to drought, pests, and disease. Fortunately, EWP responds well to management which reduces health risks and defects because it can regenerate naturally after harvesting and utilizing low-density management can mitigate risks. The managed stands will fare well under climate change due EWP adaptability and high dispersal ability This project will use demonstration forests to show how EWP can be managed to reduce risks and improve forest resilience and value.

The technical feasibility of the research, the advantages for doing the work as a multistate effort.

A Letter of Intent and three proposals have been developed by multi-state teams.  A Letter of Intent to the 2019 Sustainable Agricultural Systems Program (NIFA) attracted involvement from 23 investigators and 10 collaborators from 12 states (ME, NH, VT, MA, NY, PA, VA, NC, OH, MI, WI, MN) but was not selected for proposal development.  The University of Maine and SUNY – ESF submitted a $500,000 proposal in April 2020 to the USDA-AFRI program on Sustainable Agroecosystems: Health, Functions, Processes and Management.  If funded, the proposed work would study fundamental tree processes affecting tree health and value, how the processes are affected by EWP management, and how management affects ecosystem services as represented by birds, xylophytic beetles, and carbon dynamics.   A second proposal was submitted by the University of New Hampshire, University of Maine, and University of Massachusetts to the USDA Renewable Resource Extension Act – National Focus Fund Projects (RREA-NFF), and the two year project will be funded for $100,000 to support a symposium, establishing the EWP Management Institute, and to provide published materials and videos in support of EWP management.  The symposium on EWP Health and Management is scheduled for June 2021 in Durham, NH, and will be coordinated with the IUFRO Working Party Meetings on tree diseases and rust diseases.  A third proposal was submitted in September 2020 to the USDA Forest Service Landscape Scale Restoration Fund for $550,000 that would help establish a network of demonstration forests in 6 states (ME, NH, VT, NY, PA, VA). 

What the likely impacts will be from successfully completing the work.

We expect at least 500 forest resource professionals will participate in the symposium and EWP Management Institute activities.  These professionals will then share the information with another 10,000 clients affecting at least 400,000 acres.  These positive changes will be achieved by, first, sharing knowledge about EWP health threats and management options for improving EWP resilience, regeneration, and sustainability across its range.  Current plans will be implemented across 9 states (ME, NH, VT, NY, PA, VA, NC, MI, WI) at 12 locations and utilize over 30 treatments.  There will be multiple examples of shelterwood treatment and low density management that replicate the process across the region, with site to site customizations that make the treatments better suited for local needs, but also can provide new ideas and strategies for other locations.    Second, allowing people to directly view recommended management practices at the demonstration forests with supporting inventory data.  Being able to compare management and non-treated stands will directly illustrate the importance of management.  Third, generating an effective outreach program involving EWP Management Institute, field manual, fact sheets, workshops, and webinars will prepare forest resource professionals to work with clients in the public and private sector to improve EWP management. Fourth, sharing of information among states and demonstration forests will continually improve the knowledge about effective EWP management and improve strategies for getting management practices implemented by forest resource professionals and forest owners.  Each participating state is establishing at least one demonstration forest and will sponsor workshops best suited for the state’s situation.  By establishing the EWP Management Institute, there will be infrastructure for forest resource professionals and scientists to share information and experiences that can help those in other states.  

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