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Old 08-25-2013, 09:02 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 6,026,414 times
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Take a look at a map and one will see that the town of Grand Lake resides in a political pocket inserted into Rocky Mountain National Park; if the western park boundary ran more or less straight north and south Grand Lake would reside within RMNP.

The mountains to north, east and south one sees from Grand Lake are largely all within RMNP. The NPS has already messed with the ecosystem and trees of RMNP far more than they should have. But this extending into sacrilege if devolving to the removal of all the dead trees from those mountainsides. 95 percent of RMNP is officially designated wilderness, meaning "untrammeled" by mankind and basically left the hell alone to do as it will. Some residents of Grand Lake may not like it, but that is part of the bargain of living in such a place.

Tragic doesn't begin to describe what has become of lodgepole pine forests in Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountain West. Anyone who pays attention will also notice that youth alone is no longer any guarantee of these trees escaping the attention of the mountain pine beetle. What is transpiring is unnatural and beyond norms.

When speaking of regeneration one should understand that commonly accepted parameters no longer apply. These trees are largely susceptible, attacked and dying because of our changing climate. Which to the degree it does will dictate future ecosystems, and what might be able to regrow, or never again so.

 
Old 08-25-2013, 10:05 PM
 
Location: CO/UT/AZ/NM Catch me if you can!
4,703 posts, read 4,343,073 times
Reputation: 10302
Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
Lodgepole forests are very common from central Colorado north well into Canada. Rocky Mountain lodgepole forests re-seed and regenerate by burning. Get over it. As a forester friend of mine put it so well some years back: "There are two kinds of lodgepole forests--the ones that are going to burn and the ones that are burning." One of his specialties, by the way, was lodgepole forest ecology.
I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you on this one, jl. Just how long ago was "some years back"?

Ecologists who specialize in forestry as well as other branches of the field are continuing to study the effects of warming on any number of plant and animal species in Colorado, as well as the rest of the Rocky Mountain West. When I was in undergrad and grad school at CU lo these many years ago, the above was the standard doctrine about lodgepole ecology. It was all about "sucession." Sun loving species such as the lodgepole would come in to newly open areas thanks to fire. Beneath the sheltering canopy of lodgepole, shade tolerant seedlings of subalpine fir would begin to regenerate, but the lodgepole was always the predominent species which made up 80% of the "climax" forest in the upper montane and subalpine regions. Only about 22% of the forests at these elevations were dominated by subalpine fir. Under normal conditions the forest trees at these elevations would gradually succumb to wind storms, plain old age, and yes, the occasional outbreak of beetle. New seedlings of either subslpine fir or mainly lodgepole would take root in the gaps formed by the fallen trees where light could reach the forest floor.

This stately procession of fir and lodgepole, fire and regeneration, and climax and succession went on for thousands of years. And then the climate change began. Forest biologists are studying the situation intensively in different forests - RMNP and the Arapahoe National Forest in Colorado; Yellowstone NP in Wyoming and the Medicine Bow National forest in Montana to name but a few.

Just in Yellowstone, the subalpine fir has uncharacteristically become the dominant species over the lodgepole. The lodgepole may vanish from Yellowstone by mid-century. All this information about our lodgepole forests has been put together in a highly readable format for the layperson. One of the scientists who helped write it, Bill Romne, was my advisor at the CU biology department when I was a student there. Dr, Romne is a highly respected forest ecologist, and if his findings how that the lodgepole is in trouble thanks in part to global warming, I believe him.

http://nwccog.org/docs/cbbc/presenta...C%20102811.pdf
 
Old 08-25-2013, 10:30 PM
 
Location: Vernon, British Columbia
3,019 posts, read 2,684,759 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colorado Rambler View Post
You folks up there in Canada have some pretty low standards in regard to the health of your own forests if you think "The forest doesn't actually look that bad."


Alberta forest ravaged by beetle kill. Picture included in article linked to above.



Looks can be deceiving. In and among those dead trees are dozens of younger pine waiting for the chance to have their turn. I know this because it used to look like that here in BC, but things look a lot nicer now that the old trees have lost all their needles. At my mom's house where her 6 acres of property consists of 95%+ lodgepole pine and the rest aspen, the pine beetle swept through and killed about 30% of the trees, but most of the trees are still alive and looking as healthy as ever because each tree is less crowded than before.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
Sure. Consider this quote, then refer to the fuller article:
“On average, wildfires burn twice as many acres each year as compared to 40 years ago. Last year, the fires were massive in size, coinciding with increased temperatures and early snow melt in the West,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwelltold lawmakers on Capitol Hill last month, adding, “The last two decades have seen fires that are extraordinary in their size, intensity and impacts.” [1]

Do a search under 'mega fires,' for instance. This trend happens to be incontrovertible.


1) 'Western wildfires’ size, intensity and impact are increasing, experts say,' The Washington Post
Western wildfires? size, intensity and impact are increasing, experts say - Washington Post
It is true that we've had very hot and dry summers over the past 15 years, but 15 years is too short a time frame for measuring a long term trend. Also, fires are larger today in part because we have been suppressing fires for decades allowing the fuels to pile up. Those huge fires from the 1800s were not allowed to happen for a 100 years, and thus something had to finally give. The same has happened here in British Columbia were our endangered grassland ecosystem is shrinking because of encroaching trees that have not been held in check by fires as they would been 100 years ago. Thankfully the forest service has been purposely setting fires over the past few years to bring them back.
 
Old 08-26-2013, 03:57 AM
 
529 posts, read 1,251,832 times
Reputation: 676
Quote:
Originally Posted by wanneroo View Post
Destroyed? I call it forest renewal. Some cycles are bigger than your life span.
Thanks for telling me, I had no idea!!!!

REALLY? I know it's natural renewal, but the beetles make the process much more visible and consistently visible than say a fire every few years.

For example a fire will burn, and the trees will die. Once the fire is out the dead trees will be visible, but the remaining forest that was unaffected will mostly cover up the dead trees around them, and scorched trees are less visible than ones killed by beetles.

Also a forest that is unaffected by pine beetles and is destroyed by a fire will look healthy and fine until the fire destroys it, it's not a long term look of dying like the beetle ravaged forests have. Plus a fire will be visible for say a week or so then the forest is dead, the beetle devastation process though is visible for years and years.

The Hayman fire for example, completely wiped out huge areas of trees in the Pike National Forest, so while it is sad the forests have been killed there is no forest left anyways so the dying process is not visible, it just looks like desert now.

My point was that the beetle devastation is the most visually noticeable form of forest renewal, and since it slowly destroys all trees in an area, the sight of dead trees surrounded by living trees is more upsetting. If you don't like the word destroyed, then use your own.
 
Old 08-26-2013, 05:54 AM
 
529 posts, read 1,251,832 times
Reputation: 676
Quote:
Originally Posted by freewest View Post
It has been going on for decades, just not with insect larvae.
Exactly!
 
Old 08-26-2013, 03:23 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,805,943 times
Reputation: 9132
Some comments about Rambler's citation above:

Lodgepole occupy a somewhat unique environmental niche in the Rocky Mountains. Depending on location, they can either be a climax species--the top of the succession chain, or they can be a sub-climax species, subject to eventually being succeeded by a climax species. In the middle-elevation areas of central Colorado northward into Canada, they are often typically a climax species. Why? Because they can tolerate the very cold winters, but relatively dry summers common at those elevations in the central and northern Rockies. Thus, they often grow in even-age stands that eventually overcrowd, become diseased and ultimately burn, reseeding themselves on the same site to begin the process again. Growing in that regime, a mature lodgepole forest is somewhat of an ecological desert on the forest floor, since few other trees or forbs can compete with the lodgepole for sun, water, and soil nutrients. There are numerous stories of the Indian tribes deliberately burning lodgepole forests in order to improve range conditions for bison and other large game that they hunted. (A parenthetical note here--bison were originally native to the mountains and wapiti--Rocky Mountain elk--were native to the plains. It was intensive hunting, by both Indians and whites, and white settlement in the mountains and plains that eventually drove the bison to the plains and the elk to the high country.)

In areas where lodgepole is eventually replaced by other tree species, that is strong evidence that the area is one where lodgepole is a successional specie of tree. Typically, for example, subalpine fir grows in areas with greater precipitation than lodgepole, thus could be a likely successional tree to a lodgepole in areas where precipitation is adequate for the subalpine fir to grow.

It is also worth noting that lodgepole is essentially non-native from the southern Colorado mountains southward. In those areas, it is typically replaced in its elevation range by white fir, corkbark fir (a variety of subalpine fir unique to the Southwest), and quaking aspen. The ecological difference between the southern Rockies and those farther north is not so much temperature, which is not that much different, but the amount of summer precipitation. That makes the southern Rockies more hospitable to the aforementioned trees, while those species do not do so well in the central and northern Rockies where summer precipitation (especially in July and August) is less. The lodgepole is better able to tolerate summer dryness than the aspens, firs, etc.

The alpine spruce-fir forests are another matter. If they burn, they can be replaced by either aspen or lodgepole--again, dependent on summer precipitation levels--at the lower elevations of their range. In the higher elevations, they may simply not grow back for decades or centuries, and leave open "parks" in the wake of their disappearance. This is what happened in the area of Cumbres Pass near the Colorado-New Mexico border when that area burned in 1879. There the spruce have been slowly been recolonizing the open grasslands by re-seeding from the isolated stands of spruce left by the fire, but most of the area is still open and unforested. Ironically, the dense spruce-fir forests not burned by the 1879 fire are now themselves heavily infested by beetles and spruce budworm that are now killing huge stands of those trees. At some point, they, too will burn.

Models differ on what effect global warming may have on the Rockies' high altitude climates. Most predict decreased winter snowpack and quicker water evaporation which do not bode well for most any of the coniferous mountain species of trees. However, some models also predict heavier summer precipitation that would favor the Southern Rockies montane and alpine species that "like" wetter summers. An unanswered question is whether that enhanced summer precipitation pattern would extend farther north in the Rockies, which would make the central Rockies forest regime resemble those in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico (not a bad thing, in my opinion), or whether the summer precipitation regime would not change, effectively exterminating cold winter/dry summer species like the lodgepole that could not tolerate the warmer winter temperatures.

One fact can't disputed: Whether caused by normal cyclical climatic variation, human-caused global warming, or human mismanagement of forest resources--or some combination of all of the above--millions of acres of Rocky Mountain forests are prime to burn and will likely burn in the next few years. And there is really nothing that we can do about that except get out of the way when it does happen.
 
Old 08-26-2013, 06:00 PM
 
147 posts, read 187,809 times
Reputation: 291
Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
Actually, logging in a dying lodgepole forest may stop or delay forest regeneration. Why? Because lodgepole pine cones take the high temperatures of a fire in order to release their seeds to replant the burned area. The best thing that could happen would be for that forest to burn. It wouldn't be a problem except for all the man-made crap built in those "naturally-designed-to-burn" forests.
Yes, fire is part of the lodgepole's reproductive cycle, but letting Grand Lake burn to the ground is not acceptable either. Seeds can be released artificially and the logged forest around the town can be replanted. Let the rest of it go. Got to be some give and take. Getting out of the way is just not in our nature.
 
Old 08-26-2013, 06:01 PM
 
147 posts, read 187,809 times
Reputation: 291
We are as much a part of the natural world as any other critter. Some animals build hives, some build nests, we build butt-ugly housing developments. Our ability to reason, create, build, and fix (or destroy) things is as natural as any other critter's activities. We make plenty of mistakes, but our ingenuity far outweighs our screw-ups. Fix where we can, let nature fix where we can't, and stop it with the anti-human crap.
 
Old 08-26-2013, 06:49 PM
 
Location: Wherabouts Unknown!
7,764 posts, read 16,851,125 times
Reputation: 9317
freewst wrote: We make plenty of mistakes, but our ingenuity far outweighs our screw-ups.

That remains to be seen!
 
Old 08-26-2013, 10:59 PM
 
Location: Bend, OR
3,296 posts, read 8,430,211 times
Reputation: 3321
Quote:
Originally Posted by Colorado Rambler View Post
I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you on this one, jl. Just how long ago was "some years back"?

Ecologists who specialize in forestry as well as other branches of the field are continuing to study the effects of warming on any number of plant and animal species in Colorado, as well as the rest of the Rocky Mountain West. When I was in undergrad and grad school at CU lo these many years ago, the above was the standard doctrine about lodgepole ecology. It was all about "sucession." Sun loving species such as the lodgepole would come in to newly open areas thanks to fire. Beneath the sheltering canopy of lodgepole, shade tolerant seedlings of subalpine fir would begin to regenerate, but the lodgepole was always the predominent species which made up 80% of the "climax" forest in the upper montane and subalpine regions. Only about 22% of the forests at these elevations were dominated by subalpine fir. Under normal conditions the forest trees at these elevations would gradually succumb to wind storms, plain old age, and yes, the occasional outbreak of beetle. New seedlings of either subslpine fir or mainly lodgepole would take root in the gaps formed by the fallen trees where light could reach the forest floor.

This stately procession of fir and lodgepole, fire and regeneration, and climax and succession went on for thousands of years. And then the climate change began. Forest biologists are studying the situation intensively in different forests - RMNP and the Arapahoe National Forest in Colorado; Yellowstone NP in Wyoming and the Medicine Bow National forest in Montana to name but a few.

Just in Yellowstone, the subalpine fir has uncharacteristically become the dominant species over the lodgepole. The lodgepole may vanish from Yellowstone by mid-century. All this information about our lodgepole forests has been put together in a highly readable format for the layperson. One of the scientists who helped write it, Bill Romne, was my advisor at the CU biology department when I was a student there. Dr, Romne is a highly respected forest ecologist, and if his findings how that the lodgepole is in trouble thanks in part to global warming, I believe him.

http://nwccog.org/docs/cbbc/presenta...C%20102811.pdf
Thank you for the link to the article. Dr. Romme was actually one of my professors at Colorado State when I was studying forestry. Great to hear the name again. Interesting read. What I take from it though is that coniferous forests are at risk of completely disappearing in the Yellowstone area, not just lodgepole pine. It will be interesting to see if subalpine fir does become the dominant species in at least some of the stands, and is suggested. I don't necessarily think that will be a bad thing though, for the reasons Jazzlover stated. I would be far more scared of all the forests disappearing, which I think is more likely. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but it will probably happen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
Some comments about Rambler's citation above:

Lodgepole occupy a somewhat unique environmental niche in the Rocky Mountains. Depending on location, they can either be a climax species--the top of the succession chain, or they can be a sub-climax species, subject to eventually being succeeded by a climax species. In the middle-elevation areas of central Colorado northward into Canada, they are often typically a climax species. Why? Because they can tolerate the very cold winters, but relatively dry summers common at those elevations in the central and northern Rockies. Thus, they often grow in even-age stands that eventually overcrowd, become diseased and ultimately burn, reseeding themselves on the same site to begin the process again. Growing in that regime, a mature lodgepole forest is somewhat of an ecological desert on the forest floor, since few other trees or forbs can compete with the lodgepole for sun, water, and soil nutrients. There are numerous stories of the Indian tribes deliberately burning lodgepole forests in order to improve range conditions for bison and other large game that they hunted. (A parenthetical note here--bison were originally native to the mountains and wapiti--Rocky Mountain elk--were native to the plains. It was intensive hunting, by both Indians and whites, and white settlement in the mountains and plains that eventually drove the bison to the plains and the elk to the high country.)

In areas where lodgepole is eventually replaced by other tree species, that is strong evidence that the area is one where lodgepole is a successional specie of tree. Typically, for example, subalpine fir grows in areas with greater precipitation than lodgepole, thus could be a likely successional tree to a lodgepole in areas where precipitation is adequate for the subalpine fir to grow.

It is also worth noting that lodgepole is essentially non-native from the southern Colorado mountains southward. In those areas, it is typically replaced in its elevation range by white fir, corkbark fir (a variety of subalpine fir unique to the Southwest), and quaking aspen. The ecological difference between the southern Rockies and those farther north is not so much temperature, which is not that much different, but the amount of summer precipitation. That makes the southern Rockies more hospitable to the aforementioned trees, while those species do not do so well in the central and northern Rockies where summer precipitation (especially in July and August) is less. The lodgepole is better able to tolerate summer dryness than the aspens, firs, etc.

The alpine spruce-fir forests are another matter. If they burn, they can be replaced by either aspen or lodgepole--again, dependent on summer precipitation levels--at the lower elevations of their range. In the higher elevations, they may simply not grow back for decades or centuries, and leave open "parks" in the wake of their disappearance. This is what happened in the area of Cumbres Pass near the Colorado-New Mexico border when that area burned in 1879. There the spruce have been slowly been recolonizing the open grasslands by re-seeding from the isolated stands of spruce left by the fire, but most of the area is still open and unforested. Ironically, the dense spruce-fir forests not burned by the 1879 fire are now themselves heavily infested by beetles and spruce budworm that are now killing huge stands of those trees. At some point, they, too will burn.

Models differ on what effect global warming may have on the Rockies' high altitude climates. Most predict decreased winter snowpack and quicker water evaporation which do not bode well for most any of the coniferous mountain species of trees. However, some models also predict heavier summer precipitation that would favor the Southern Rockies montane and alpine species that "like" wetter summers. An unanswered question is whether that enhanced summer precipitation pattern would extend farther north in the Rockies, which would make the central Rockies forest regime resemble those in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico (not a bad thing, in my opinion), or whether the summer precipitation regime would not change, effectively exterminating cold winter/dry summer species like the lodgepole that could not tolerate the warmer winter temperatures.

One fact can't disputed: Whether caused by normal cyclical climatic variation, human-caused global warming, or human mismanagement of forest resources--or some combination of all of the above--millions of acres of Rocky Mountain forests are prime to burn and will likely burn in the next few years. And there is really nothing that we can do about that except get out of the way when it does happen.
This is spot on, especially your last paragraph. I sure hope we can do something about this, but I'm afraid that doing something is probably too late.
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