College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

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November 30, 2011

Scientists Propose Thinning Sierra Forests to Enhance Water Runoff

By James Leonard, UC Merced

snowy_forest.jpg
Runoff from the Sierra Nevada, a critical source of California’s water supply, could be enhanced by thinning forests to historical conditions, according to a report from a team of scientists with the University of California, Merced, UC Berkeley and Environmental Defense.

The team proposes to test the hypothesis that forest-management strategies that use thinning to reduce fire risk and maintain the historical mix can also increase water yield and extend the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

Scientists believe thinning forests could enhance water runoff from the Sierra Nevada. They suggest that by selectively reducing the number of trees — which use large amounts of the water received through precipitation — the amount of water that is released from the forest as runoff could increase. This enhanced runoff could make things easier for farmers and water managers statewide.

As part of the Sierra Nevada Watershed Ecosystem Enhancement Project (SWEEP), the scientists plan to reduce forest density in test areas and examine the impacts on water runoff, forest health and other ecosystem services, and provide a template for broader forest management in the Sierra Nevada.

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November 18, 2011

Taking bushmeat off the menu could increase child anemia, study finds

By Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley Media Relations

Berkeley — A new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, finds that consuming bushmeat had a positive effect on children's nutrition, raising complex questions about the trade-offs between human health and environmental conservation.

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The red-tinted hair and bloated abdomens of these three young girls in Madagascar are typical signs of kwashiorkor, a type of malnutrition that occurs when there is not enough protein in the diet. (Photo by Christopher Golden)

They further estimated that a loss of access to wildlife as a source of food – either through stricter enforcement of conservation laws or depletion of resources – would lead to a 29 percent jump in the number of children suffering from anemia. Among children in the poorest households, the researchers added, there would be a three-fold increase in the incidence of anemia. Left untreated, anemia in children
can impair growth and cognitive development.

The findings are to be published the week of Nov. 21 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"When thinking of creating protected areas for diversity, policymakers need to take into consideration how that will impact local people, both in livelihoods and from a health perspective," said study lead author Christopher Golden, who did the research while a graduate student in UC Berkeley's Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management and at the School of Public Health. "We need to find ways to benefit the local population in our conservation policies, not hurt them."

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide consume bushmeat a key source of bio-available iron, particularly for those living in rural communities. But when the menu includes endangered species, the researchers said, human nutritional needs must contend with efforts to manage wildlife resources.

Continue reading "Taking bushmeat off the menu could increase child anemia, study finds" »

November 16, 2011

Study: Without Action, SF Bay Tidal Marshes Will Disappear

An alarming 93 percent of San Francisco Bay’s tidal marsh could be lost in the next 50 to 100 years with 5.4 feet (1.65 meters) of sea-level rise and low sediment availability, according to a new study led by PRBO Conservation Science (PRBO). These figures represent the high-end sea-level rise scenario, which researchers say is increasingly likely.

The study, published this week in the journal PLoS ONE, assesses impacts of sea-level rise, suspended sediment availability, salinity and other factors on San Francisco Bay’s tidal marshes.

Tidal marshes are vital to migratory birds, commercial fisheries, other wildlife and people. Marshes act like giant sponges, protecting highways, businesses, homes and other structures by reducing flood impacts in large storm events and as sea levels rise. Tidal marshes also filter out pollutants and sequester carbon.

PRBO’s study indicates that not all marshes will be lost and that society’s actions today can keep more marshes intact as sea levels rise.

"Tidal marshes are incredibly resilient to changes in sea level, depending on how fast seas rise and how much sediment is available. Unfortunately, marshes cannot keep up with the high-end sea-level rise predictions on their own. They will need our help,” said Diana Stralberg, the study's lead author.

Lisa Schile and Maggi Kelly, of the University of California, Berkeley, were co-authors on the study.

Read the PRBO press release.

-Ann Brody Guy

November 15, 2011

Land Donation to Double UC Research Forestlands

By Ann Brody Guy, College of Natural Resources

whitaker_forest.jpgBERKELEY - The University of California will add 4,584 acres of Northern California mixed-conifer forest to its research lands, doubling the size of UC's research forests, as a result of a land donation approved yesterday (November 16) in Sacramento. The transfer is the largest single acquisition of forestland in the University's history.

The donation was approved at a meeting of the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, a private foundation that was established in 2004 as part of a Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) bankruptcy settlement to ensure that over 140,000 acres of California's pristine watershed lands are conserved for the public good and to serve California's young people.

"This four-and-half-thousand acres is a tiny portion of the total PG&E lands, but it's an enormous boon to UC's research and outreach capabilities," said J. Keith Gilless, a professor of forestry and dean of the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources, which houses the UC Center for Forestry.

The UC proposal focused on learning how California's working forests in key watersheds can be managed to sustainably provide essential ecosystem and climate benefits over the next century.

Continue reading "Land Donation to Double UC Research Forestlands" »

November 10, 2011

New Report Highlights Carbon Benefits of Forests

The Society of American Foresters (SAF) has published “Managing Forests Because Carbon Matters: Integrating Energy, Products, and Land Management Policy,” a groundbreaking report published in the Journal of Forestry that summarizes and analyzes the most recent science regarding forests and carbon accounting, biomass use, and forest carbon offsets.

The report was compiled by the SAF’s Task Force on Forest Climate Change Offsets and Use of Forest Biomass for Energy, which also coordinated more than 25 external reviews of the report.

SAF Executive Vice President Michael Goergen stated, “This report provides important policy recommendations that will encourage forest management to maximize the carbon and energy benefits forests and forest products provide, while simultaneously sustaining ecosystem health and traditional forest uses. It demonstrates why the United States must invest in its forest resources and how their management can have important positive impacts on carbon in the atmosphere while producing renewable energy and other benefits, including energy independence.”

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November 1, 2011

Cypress-Killing Fungus Originated in California

By John Upton, The Bay Citizen, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization providing local coverage of the San Francisco Bay Area for The New York Times.

For the last five years, scientists have been on the trail of a fungus that has caused a deadly epidemic in the world’s forests. The fungus, Seiridium, causes cypress canker disease, which has felled up to 95 percent of the cypress trees — a family that includes junipers — growing in some timber plantations and forests across the globe.

Last month, scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, and the National Research Council in Italy revealed that their genetic sleuthing had traced the pathogen’s roots back to Monterey cypresses in California, where the trees grow naturally along seashores in the Bay Area and other coastal regions. The findings were published in the journal Phytopathology.

Continue reading "Cypress-Killing Fungus Originated in California" »

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Scientists Propose Thinning Sierra Forests to Enhance Water Runoff
Taking bushmeat off the menu could increase child anemia, study finds
Study: Without Action, SF Bay Tidal Marshes Will Disappear
Land Donation to Double UC Research Forestlands
New Report Highlights Carbon Benefits of Forests
Cypress-Killing Fungus Originated in California

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