The GreenBlue Program is one which has broad support from the U.S. Forest Service, as well as public corporations such as McDonald’s, Mars, and Staples, with the stated goal of developing a new forest sustainability tool called Forests in Focus, and using it to increase sustainability and the certified supply of wood products. Forests in Focus is a digital mapping tool which will complement the initiative for certifying family-owned forests as sustainable, and as being managed with an appropriate level of respect for conservation. Nearly 40% of the commercial wood fiber produced in the U.S. comes from family-owned forests, but only about 1% of the source forests are certified for sustainability and environmental friendliness.
Problems with certification
Up to the present, certification of family-owned forests has not been so much an issue of unacceptable management processes, as it has been an issue of the certification process itself having little benefit for owners of such assets, while also being very costly to acquire. This is why the American Forest Foundation (AFF) has joined forces with the Forest Service in backing the GreenBlue Program, so as to get all the parties together, in an effort to understand the issues hindering certification.
The group has made significant progress, beginning with discussions about how to increase forest certification, and then progressing into exploring options on how to achieve greater access for monitoring, and potentially certifying, the vast lands currently belonging to the un-certified category of forest land. It has also addressed sustainability issues on the ground floor of these operations, and has hosted discussions with brand owners who cannot secure sufficient quantities of wood from certified forests.
How GreenBlue will help supply and sustainability
The partnership of big corporations, the American Forest Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), is paying dividends, as participants in the joint program have identified issues with the supply chain and have gained a better understanding of the importance of family-owned forests. When added to existing initiatives for certification, support for the GreenBlue Program should help bring in many more family-owned forest lands and increase certifications dramatically.
The new digital mapping tool, Forests in Focus, will help to identify gaps in sustainability wherever family-owned forest lands exist, so that such owners can be approached and assisted with obtaining certification. The hope is to involve a great many more family-owned enterprises in the certification process, so that supply chain shortages can be relieved, and so sustainable methods can be ensured on those lands where it might not currently exist.
In order to accomplish this, a vast amount of data must be gathered, correlated, and analyzed, so that the most informed decisions can be made about where to focus attention. Information on forest status, local trends, species, size, growth rates, mortality, and harvest rates must all be aggregated for analysis, so that visual depictions of the data can be developed, and then used to maximum effect by all of the participants in the GreenBlue program.
Conventional wisdom says that forests should become more flammable with age, and easier to burn, since they have so much more burn-able surface area and can provide so much more fuel for a fire. However, an Australian botanist named Philip Zylstrom has discovered some very interesting facts which support the opposite conclusion.
Since his study was conducted on virtually every forest fire which has occurred over the past several decades in the Australian Alps National Forest, his conclusions carry considerable weight. In essence, his research indicates that after a forest has re-grown following a wildfire, and has had two or three decades to recover, it actually becomes one of the best defenses against future fires.
Fire and forest re-growth
The exhaustive research performed by Mr. Zylstrom actually corroborated almost all other research done on forest land after fires, in that for several years after such a fire, the affected area was far more prone to follow-up fires and more destruction. That is the point where virtually all prior research was dropped, i.e. within two or three years following a major forest fire. Zylstrom’s research though, continued well after those years, taking in the entire post-fire history of forests within the Australian Alps National Forest.
In every single case examined by Zylstrom, going back 58 years into the historical records of these forests, he found that after a burned forest had the chance to recover for between 14 and 28 years, it was much more resistant to another fire than it had been originally. It was also found to be more fire-resistant than neighboring forests which had never been burned, and never had the chance to re-grow.
The case of the ash
One particular example which impressed Zylstrom were the ash forests contained within the Australian Alps. After suffering a devastating forest fire, they usually recovered quickly, with a whole body of fresh growth and new saplings to re-populate a stricken area. For several years, all that new growth would be powerfully impacted by any new wildfire blowing through the region, and it did indeed become much more susceptible to successive fires.
However, once those ash forests had time to grow substantially, they became tall enough to avoid igniting in anything but a raging fire. Then too, the stands of trees had become thinned out enough so that they did not offer such an inviting target to wind-blown fires. For many other kinds of forests, the same model holds true – greater susceptibility to fires within a few years of a big burn, but greater resistance once the re-forested trees were given a chance to rise above potential ignition points, and to thin out and avoid the tight packing which fuels fires.
What all this means is that steps can be taken to provide extra protection for old-growth forests, since they are less likely to burn, and offer an increased level of resistance to the possibility of being consumed in a raging forest fire.
Nature’s Packaging is committed to wood packaging sustainability and forest health is an essential component. Regularly thinning the smaller trees from forests helps prevent forest fires. The wood packaging industry makes it possible for land owners to recoup those maintenance costs as it provides a valuable outlet for the smaller logs.
Healthy Forests Healthy Communities: https://youtu.be/xliGzm6jz_g
Contrary to common belief, some forests get more fire-resistant with age: https://phys.org/news/2018-04-contrary-common-belief-forests-fire-resistant.html
If Trees Had Sweating Glands to Cool Off From The Heat
During extreme heat waves it’s common for people to seek relief under the shade of a tree yet few of us wonder how trees themselves survive these extreme conditions. Researchers from the University of Western Sydney’s Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment grew trees under controlled climate conditions to see how trees survive these harsh conditions. They discovered that leaves have their own way to survive abnormal heat by releasing water to cool themselves off. This act is very similar to the way humans sweat in order to cool our body temperature.
Over the course of one year researchers learned that trees continuously expel water through leaves when under duress caused by extreme heat. Essentially, this is how trees survive heat waves. Before this was discovered, scientists thought that photosynthesis and water expulsion were merged processes, which means for one to happen, another also needed to happen. They learned this is not the case.
Although these trees were grown in artificial conditions, they provide accurate projections of how trees will respond during extremely hot weather conditions. When trees under artificial conditions were exposed to the equivalent of a four day heat wave, during peak temperatures, trees stop sequestering carbon. On a larger scale, this means that forests, whether urban or rural, if exposed to extreme heat will stop sequestering carbon. Over time, if global temperatures continue to rise, this could have greater consequences on a forest’s ability to act as a carbon sink.
How Trees Cool Themselves
Under normal conditions, trees cool themselves by a process calls evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration is the process of water evaporating from leaves when the sun’s rays hit the trees canopy. In some cases tree canopies can divert up to 60% of incoming radiation through this process. However, it can only happen when trees are healthy. If a tree is stressed due to drought or a beetle infestation then the process of evapotranspiration could be slowed or absent entirely.
In North America, more trees are planted than are harvested due to its high standards of sustainable forest management practices. When forests are healthy and sustainably managed they sequester carbon from the atmosphere to help lower global temperatures. Nature’s Packaging supports the use of sustainably sourced lumber used in wood packaging across North America.