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20 April 2018
Volume 18 Issue 5

Warning: Unlike CNN’s contention, no facts contained in this edition are either apples or bananas. Apples and bananas are fruit, which is a fact, of course. We felt this needed clarification.

Winter 2018 Hangs in, La Niña Breaks Down, Planters Hang Out: Will Rivers Rise Up?

Last year’s cooling La Niña irrigated much of our continent during spring with little mitigating effect on what turned out to be one of our worst summer fire seasons on record. Graph; Climate Prediction Center

This year’s spring so far seems more like an extension of winter in terms of persistent cold and precipitation in many parts of the West. That’s led to at least a two week setback to the B.C. interior planting season based on our canvass of the current reckoning by contractors both in the north and south. West coast planting, which has had its downtimes due largely to snow, is wrapping up more or less on time. If there is an advantage to the interior delay for contractors it’s that they won’t have to have crews and equipment in two places at once, which can happen when the coast and interior overlap. For workers it means waiting in limbo between the coast and interior for things to get moving. As we have heard planting blocks are opening up. But access roads may be laden with last year’s exceptional snow pack holding things back. Just when all this winter’s pent up mountain snow comes down is another factor that may keep this year’s freshet interesting. At the moment there are no flood warnings or advisories in effect from the BC Rivers Forecast Centre http://bcrfc.env.gov.bc.ca/warnings/index.htm. Nevertheless, recent and intense rain-on-snow events have led mudslides in the south interior closing public highways. Likely the same or worse has been happening on resource roads as well. Meanwhile with a weakening Pacific Ocean La Niña oscillation along with the jet stream fishtailing around the hemisphere the general feeling among forecasters is that things will be cooler this spring. No one is speculating yet on when it will get hot or just how hot. Last year taught us a cool, wet spring is not a reliable indicator for a similar summer in terms of heat and drought.

It’s Tick Season: Join our Pilot Project and Save Your Ticks for Science

The western black-legged tick is the size of a sesame seed; the others the size of a pea (including their eight legs).

While bears grab most of the headlines for wildlife dangers in forestry, the western black-legged tick carries a less visible and difficult-to-track threat in the form of Lyme disease, transmitted by bacteria in the insects. Lyme disease is increasingly recognized among Canadians, but remains under-diagnosed. Different species of ticks can also transmit other diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The BC Centre for Disease Control reported a historic high of 40 Lyme disease cases (known) in 2016. Silviculture and forestry workers face potentially heightened exposure due to the large areas of ground they cover during prime periods of tick activity. However, there is little data regarding the prevalence of worker-tick encounters, the species of ticks encountered, or the types of diseases carried by the insects most frequently observed by workers.

The BC Safe Forestry Program is developing a pilot project in cooperation with the Tick Microbiome Initiative and the Canada Lyme Disease Foundation to gather information on the prevalence of ticks and the bacteria they carry in silviculture and forestry workplaces. The project will provide educational resources to employers and workers in the form of posters and presentations, and distribute kits for removing ticks and for sending captured insects to labs for testing…..and perhaps some rough interrogation. Employers wishing to participate in this study can send an expression of interest to forestrysafetyadvocate@gmail.com.

Researching the Wood-Wide Web: Should We Be Mothering our Forests?

Can retaining ‘mother trees’ in a harvest preserve the biological legacy of the forest? A research plot on Vancouver Island this winter testing this hypothesis.

Considering that plants are capable of the remarkable feat of eating light should we be surprised then that they communicate as well? Or that forests actually nurture their young? Or that what we see as competition between trees might actually reflect our lack of understanding of the complex cooperation taking place between their roots and other organisms underground? One of the leading researchers who has unearthed these biological astonishments is UBC forest ecologist Professor Suzanne Simard. For 30 years she has studied how certain fungi bind with tree roots to form mycorrhizas, which assist trees in acquiring water and nutrients in exchange for carbon. But that simple symbiosis is actually only one of the reciprocal transactions the resulting root web is capable of. Simard has traced how the root-fungi network allows trees to communicate by transferring water, nutrients, carbon and defense signals between each other. Even more intriguing some trees appear to be central to these exchanges offering support to younger ones, so call hub or mother trees. In this model a forest is not a welter of competing individuals thrashing it out for light and nutrients. Instead a forest is an integral organism of biological cooperation built on what appears to be a kind of intelligence. This doesn’t mean we have to sentimentalize forests as some writers have. But it does have implications for harvesting, reforesting and retaining forest resilience. For example it is already clear from Simard’s work that brushing paper birch on fir plantations frustrates the natural cooperation between these two species. As for harvesting, if we try to preserve the ‘mother trees’ in a stand can we increase the chance of preserving the genetic and nurturing integrity of the forest organism to hasten its full recovery after the cut? Obviously there are few more questions raised by Simard’s heterodoxy. Meanwhile her intriguing research continues here in B.C. We look forward to hearing the results. For more on this click here.

More ATV/UTV Training Needed for Forestry Operations says Forestry Safety Advocate

Crunched: there are limits to operating these machines at their limit: training can help operators recognize them—many don’t apparently.

Recent field observations from BC Forestry Safety Advocate Jordan Tesluk and WFCA Chief Driving Instructor Alan Sidorov suggest we may be reverting to old bad habits around operating ATVs and UTVs in the silviculture sector. Considering that we normally operate these machines at the outer margins of their design limits running them carelessly beyond them has its risks. “When asked in the field, few operators can identify load limits for ATVs, or the slope limits and water depths that they can safely cross,” says Tesluk. This suggests some deficiencies in training and supervision also noticed by Sidorov. It is likely that training operators, to become competent, can mitigate the problems associated with damaging workers and equipment. For that reason the WFCA has developed an industry standard and curriculum for training operators. For more information on the training contact info@wfca.ca.