CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon State University’s Climate Center received a four-million-dollar grant to continue research on dying forests, a study that scientists say is important not only for the eco-system, but also for the economy.
Scientists at Oregon State University say forests are dying, many of which for reasons that are understood: drought, wildfires, and beetle infestation. But researchers at Oregon State University say they have noticed the recent trend of warmer summers, and they want to know more about how the climate is directly affecting forest mortality.
“This is a huge problem because over the last 15 years, enormous tracks of forest land have died, causing all sorts of ecological and economic harm,” said Philip Mote, Director at the Oregon Climate Research Institute.
Mote says timber continues to be a economic force in Oregon despite logging restrictions on federal lands. He says if forest mortality continues, the timber industry is going to suffer.
He says he is astonished by the hundreds of thousands of acres of western forests that have been affected by wildfires and beetle infestation.
“If a beetle tries to drill into the tree, the tree can push it out with sap,” he said. “But if the tree is drought stressed, it can’t muster up enough pressure to push the beetles out.”
He says the beetles will swarm in, killing the tree. Mote says beetle infestation is seen throughout the western United States and in British Columbia. But Mote says Oregon and Washington haven’t seen the same amount of forest damage as other areas, and researchers want to know if these two states are at risk.
The United States Department of Agriculture gave researchers from Oregon State University and three other universities the 5-year grant, so scientists could investigate dying forests in order to predict where forest mortality is likely to happen, and how it could be prevented.
“Effects are already occurring,” said Bev Law, a professor in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at OSU. “Everybody likes the way things are, and you can kind of see that, like the lobster in the pot boiling. You don’t really know it’s happening until it’s too late.”
Law is helping research the effects of climate on forest ecosystems by looking at climate variation and how it impacts trees differently, as well as how it impacts different species living in various environments.
“As scientists, we’re being asked to help,” Law said. “Help make decisions on what to do in terms of policy and mitigation actions.”
Scientists say this grant will allow them to research the unknown, and help policy-makers by giving them the information they need to make decisions about forest management.