2011-04-29

Power on Wheels

Utilizing a design pioneered by downdraft gasification system developer Community Power Corp., Montana researcher Brian Kerns has developed a mobile biomass gasifier, after collaborating with the company to integrate their design with his own ideas.

So far, his work has resulted in a 25-kilowatt per hour system that can easily be transported to areas where there is a need to manage woody biomass waste, such as pine beetle-killed wood. “Instead of gathering the biomass materials and bringing them to a centralized plant, which is the norm, we wanted to do the opposite,” Kerns says.

That strategy provides several benefits, including avoiding feedstock transportation and storage costs. The system, which is enclosed on a semi-trailer platform, can be set up and running within an hour.

2011-04-27

Mountain Pine Beetle Perched to Move Eastward

Now that the mountain pine beetle has chewed through some 70,000 square miles of forest in the western states and Canada, it seems the voracious pest is expanding its palate. Beetles in Canada were recently discovered attacking jack pines (Pinus banksiana) for the first time, a break from their usual diet of lodgepole (Pinus contorta), according to a study published this month in the journal Molecular Ecology. With this switch in taste, the beetle could be setting up to cross the continent via the vast Canadian boreal forest, putting trees on the East Coast at risk.

Up to this point, the mountain pine beetle has munched mainly on lodgepole-dominated forests in the western U.S. and Canada. But at the eastern edge of Canada’s lodgepole range, hybrid lodgepole-jack pines may have helped the critters switch to the eastern species. Scientists from the University of Alberta who authored the new study were able to verify that purebred jack pines as far east as Alberta’s Slave Lake had fallen to beetle attack.

The pine beetle’s leap to jack pine has been anticipated—indeed feared—by biologists for a decade. High Country News contributing editor Michelle Nijhuis reported on that prediction in 2004 in her article, ”Global Warming’s Unlikely Harbingers.”

2011-04-25

Provinces join ranks to stop eastward march of mountain pine beetle

It’s no longer a matter of if, but when the destructive mountain pine beetle will spread east of Alberta through Canada’s northern boreal forest, say provincial forestry experts in Manitoba and Ontario.

These provinces, along with Saskatchewan, are stepping up efforts to reduce the insect’s anticipated damage. A recent study confirming that, in Alberta, the beetle has jumped species from lodgepole pine to jack pine trees – the most common type of pine in the boreal forest – has amplified concerns and stirred new calls for the federal government to play a stronger role in implementing a national forestry pest strategy.

Ottawa earmarked nearly $13-million in 2006 to develop a pest plan, but that funding has been spent. Responsibility for the strategy now sits with a working group of the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers.

Pine beetle could chomp eastward

A new study finds mountain pine beetles have moved from Lodgepole pine to Jack pine trees, giving them a new opportunity to spread across Canada.

Alberta researchers recently confirmed that the baneful mountain pine beetle has infested a different type of tree that would allow the pest to spread into Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

University of Alberta scientists have discovered that the tiny beetles can jump from the Lodgepole pines of western Canada to boreal forest Jack pines.

2011-04-22

Western pine beetles munch eastward

Now that the mountain pine beetle has chewed through some 70,000 square miles of forest in the western States and Canada, it seems the voracious pest is expanding its palate. Beetles in Canada were recently discovered attacking jack pines (Pinus banksiana) for the first time, a break from their usual diet of lodgepole (Pinus contorta), according to a study [PDF] published this month in the journal Molecular Ecology. With this switch in taste, the beetle could be setting up to cross the continent via the vast Canadian boreal forest, putting trees on the East Coast at risk.

Up to this point, the mountain pine beetle has munched mainly on lodgepole pine-dominated forests in the western U.S. and Canada. But at the eastern edge of Canada's lodgepole range, hybrid lodgepole-jack pines may have helped the critters switch to the eastern species. Scientists from the University of Alberta who authored the new study were able to verify that purebred jack pines as far east as Alberta's Slave Lake had fallen to beetle attack.

The pine beetle's leap to jack pine has been anticipated -- indeed feared -- by biologists for a decade. High Country News contributing editor Michelle Nijhuis reported on that prediction in 2004 in her article, "Global Warming's Unlikely Harbingers".

2011-04-21

Construction: Wood chucks old image

For all of modern history, we have relied on steel and concrete in the construction of multi-storey buildings, because both materials are sturdy, reliable and cheap. Michael Green, a principal at MGB Architecture in Vancouver, argues there is another option: wood. "When I say that, people's jaws drop," he says. "They think I'm crazy."

Green has been working on a report for the past few months to demonstrate the feasibility of replacing concrete and steel with timber in the construction of highrises. The full report, due out in the coming weeks, will show it is possible to build up to 30 storeys using timber.

The report is sponsored and currently under review by the Wood Enterprise Coalition, an industry association established by the British Columbia government last year with $1.75 million in funding. The interest from both government and industry in the concept is largely economic. The forestry sector has been in decline for years, and any new use for wood (particularly the 15-million hectares of trees killed by the mountain pine beetle in the province) could mean salvation.

$3M More To Mitigate Pine Beetle Impact In Region

The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition has received a commitment from the provincial government on $1-million dollars a year over the next three years to continue its efforts to combat the economic impacts of the mountain pine beetle.

The Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Innovation has announced a total of $9-million dollars over three years for the Omineca, Cariboo-Chilcotin, and Southern Interior.

OBAC Chair, Don Bassermann says, "This funding means the coalition can continue to implement the strategies and projects that have been so important to this region, helping us to achieve the long-term goals that will provide strength and resilience across all sectors and communities in the region."

2011-04-20

Mountain pine beetle battle funded

Last Friday (April 15) in Williams Lake, the B.C. Liberal government announced it is continuing to provide funding, with a $9-million infusion, to help the province’s three beetle action coalitions (BAC) continue their front-line battle against the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

However, this is the same funding program that was announced by then premier Gordon Campbell during last year’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention.

When he stepped down as B.C. Liberal leader a short time later, there was some confusion and concern as to whether the funding promise was still on the table.

2011-04-16

$9 million for fight against mountain pine beetle

The Province is continuing its fight against the mountain pine beetle epidemic with a $9-million infusion to help B.C.'s three beetle action coalitions continue their front-line battle.

The three coalitions have been developing and funding projects to help mitigate the current and anticipated economic, environmental and social impacts of the pine beetle epidemic. Now, the Southern Interior, Omineca and Cariboo-Chilcotin beetle action coalitions will each receive $3 million over three years to continue these regional efforts.

The mountain pine beetle has already affected an estimated 17.5 million hectares of pine forest, affecting economies and livelihoods all over the province. Since 2001, the Province has invested more than $756 million to battle the mountain pine beetle, mitigate future impacts and promote regional economic development.

2011-04-14

Will the Pine Beetle Cross the Continent?

The mountain pine beetle is one step closer to crossing North America and turning eastern pine forests into the same bleak landscapes that have scarred the Mountain West in recent years.

Some scientists say it is inevitable that the tree-killing insect will spread all the way east via a corridor of jack pines across northern Canada's boreal forest. The question is: When? Others are more skeptical.

Either way, researchers have now shown that the beetle has invaded a new species of pine on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada, with potentially serious consequences.


2011-04-11

Mountain pine beetle to sweep across Canada

By moving into jack pines, Mountain Pine beetle has also moved from being a western problem to being a national problem, says Murray Summers.

Interviewed on Thursday, April 7, the Forest industry MPB co-ordinator for companies in this region including Alberta Newsprint company and Millar Western Forest Products, commented on the announcement that researchers have accumulated conclusive evidence that MPB, which had lodgepole pine as its usual host, is now invading jack pines.

A Genome Alberta news release on Monday, April 4, stated that a group of researchers funded in part by Genome Alberta, have learned the beetle now is poised to move east across the boreal forest. "It has long been suspected that the beetle was invading hybrid tree species, but using newly developed DNA genotyping and location data, the University of Alberta team found pure jack pine are now being attacked by the beetle and the blue-stain fungi the beetles inject into the trees," the release stated.


2011-04-05

Pine beetle finds new home: Alta. researchers

Alberta researchers say the destructive mountain pine beetle has infested a different type of tree that could allow the pest to spread eastward across Canada.

University of Alberta scientists say they have proven the tiny beetles can jump species from the lodgepole pines of Western Canada to Jack pines, the main trees in the boreal forest.

The beetles have been found in Jack pines north of Edmonton and the bugs are knocking on Saskatchewan's door.


2011-04-04

Species jump: Mountain pine beetles could infect forests across Canada

Mountain pine beetles have successfully made the species jump from lodgepole pine to jack pine, increasing concerns that the pest could infect forests from British Columbia to the east coast, according to a University of Alberta-led research team.

The group of U of A tree biologists and geneticists discovered that, as the mountain pine beetle spread eastward from central B.C., it successfully jumped species from its main host, the lodgepole pine, to the jack pine. Jack pine is the dominant pine species in Canada’s boreal forest, which stretches east from Alberta all the way to the Maritime provinces.

In Alberta, there is a zone where lodgepole and jack pine hybridize before the switch from one species dominating the forest to the other. There had been no record of mountain pine beetle infection in natural hybrid or jack pine stands, wrote the team in their study, published Monday in the online version of the scientific journal Molecular Ecology. There was considerable evidence to suggest hybrids and jack pine would be suitable hosts for the beetle’s reproduction, though, and they decided to have a closer look.


Mountain pine beetle could infect forests across Canada: research

New research has heightened fears that mountain pine beetles could infest forests across Canada, now that the beetle has advanced beyond its main host species to broaden its potential range of destruction.

Mountain pine beetles have successfully made the species "jump" from lodgepole pine to jack pine — which could expand the beetles' range to span from B.C. to the Maritimes, according to the research published in the online version of scientific journal Molecular Ecology.

A group of tree biologists and geneticists from the University of Alberta discovered that as the mountain pine beetle spread eastward from central B.C., it successfully jumped from its main host, the lodgepole pine, to the jack pine.


Alberta scientists say pine beetles killing tree species found across Canada

Alberta researchers say the destructive mountain pine beetle has infested a different type of tree that could allow the pest to spread eastward across Canada.

University of Alberta scientists say they have proven the tiny beetles can jump species from the lodgepole pines of Western Canada to Jack pines, the main trees in the boreal forest.

The beetles have been found in Jack pines north of Edmonton and the bugs are knocking on Saskatchewan's door.