Wasp Kills Pines

  • The Sirex woodwasp is killing pinetrees in New York, Pennsylvania and parts of Ontario and seems to be spreading. (Photo by Lester Graham)

Foresters are worried about a wasp that’s killing pine trees. The insect is
spreading through pine forests in northern states. Steve Carmody reports:

Transcript

Foresters are worried about a wasp that’s killing pine trees. The insect is
spreading through pine forests in northern states. Steve Carmody reports:


The female Sirex woodwasp injects a combination of a toxic mucus and a
fungus while laying her eggs in pine trees. The mixture feeds the eggs, but
kills tree cells, often further weakening stressed pines.


In the three years since it first appeared in upstate New York, the Sirex
woodwasp has spread to 25 New York counties, and two counties in
Pennsylvania and part of Ontario.


Bob Heyd, with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, says the Sirex
woodwasp is spreading:


“The wasp is actually very strong fliers. They can fly 70 or 100 miles, so what it
is here… it will disperse very quickly.”


In other countries, forestry officials have found an imported predatory
nematode from the wasp’s home range in Europe has been an effective
biological control. It’s unclear if officials in the US will try the same
tactic.


For the Environment Report, I’m Steve Carmody.

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Christmas Tree Sellers Hoping for Better Season

Christmas tree sellers are in the height of their season right now. Truckloads of spruces, pines and firs are being delivered to stores and Christmas tree lots all across the region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

Christmas tree sellers are in the height of their season right now. Truck loads of spruces, pines
and firs are being delivered to stores and Christmas tree lots all across the region. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


Christmas tree growers are hoping sales are up this year. Last year they were down substantially.
Sales dropped from the year before by about five-and-a-half million trees. That’s because of two
things. Thanksgiving came late last year, making the buying season shorter. Then, the hustle and
bustle of the condensed holiday season caused some families to skip the tree altogether.


Andy Cole is a grower in Michigan and a spokesperson for the National Christmas Tree
Association. He says hopefully newer trends in trees will help sales this year. In recent years
instead of Scotch pines, people are leaning toward true fir trees such as the Frasier fir and the
Balsam fir.


COLE “Well, they’re a more open layered tree and they have a sturdy branch pattern that will take
the large ornaments that are so popular now.”


The National Christmas Tree Association expects one out of every four households will buy a
fresh tree this year. That amounts to 28 million trees purchased between Thanksgiving and
Christmas.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

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Repelling Christmas Tree Thieves

  • Landscape Manager Jeff Culbertson sprays a Scots pine with thief repellant containing fox urine. The smell isn't too noticeable outdoors... but when a thief drags a conifer indoors, the repellant heats up and makes for a memorable Christmas. Photo by Nanci Ann McIntosh, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Evergreen trees grace forests, campuses, and lawns around the region. Much to the dismay of landscapers and gardeners, some of those trees disappear this time of year, stolen by someone who may not quite get the idea of Christmas cheer. But some universities have found a way to fight tree rustlers. It involves a foul-smelling concoction that makes thieves regret taking a tree. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams has the recipe for this nasty, yet effective repellant:

Transcript

Evergreen trees grace forests, campuses, and lawns around the region. And much to the dismay of landscapers and gardeners, some of those trees disappear this time of year, stolen by someone who may not quite get the idea of Christmas cheer. But some universities have found a way to fight tree-rustlers. It involves a foul-smelling concoction that makes thieves regret taking a tree. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams has the recipe for this nasty, yet effective repellant:


About fifteen years ago, landscape managers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln had a big problem. Tree thieves were cutting down the best conifers on campus. And the landscapers were getting calls from local residents, whose trees were also disappearing. Dennis Adams is a forester at the University of Nebraska.


“It’d be, you know, trees that have good Christmas tree form, so blue spruce, concolor fir, some of the pines – white pine, scotch pine.”


Some thieves were easy to track. Jeff Culbertson is a landscape manager at the university. He says students were stealing trees during Thanksgiving break… and they weren’t always perfect criminals…


“We’ve had instances where the students, I guess didn’t do a good job or didn’t think anybody cared, but you could find the dragged marks of the tree through the snow to their fraternity or dormitory or something like that so in those cases I think it was pretty easy for them to figure out where the tree went.”


Campus trees are worth hundreds of dollars, so the university was eager to find a solution. Dennis Adams discovered a solution… literally. He found the recipe in an old magazine… 1 part glycerine, 10 parts water, and 2 parts… fox urine.


Jeff Culbertson says the fox urine makes Christmas tree thieves think twice…


“It doesn’t really smell like skunk. Maybe like an extremely strong cat urine sort of smell. Or dog, something that’s very concentrated. But you know normally you’re not going to smell that. So it’s pretty pungent.”


Culbertson says since the University of Nebraska began spraying conifers in the 80s, they haven’t lost many trees. He sprays 50 to 100 Christmas-tree size evergreens each year. He used to wear a plastic spray suit, but now he just keeps the wind at his back.


“When I do the fox urine, I don’t have many volunteers that want to help me with that. So I take on upon myself to do it. They mostly stand away from me, and they probably don’t talk to me too much that day either.”


Culbertson says there is one problem with this technique… when it’s cold out, you don’t notice the smell. So he started adding a dye… he sprays blue or red stripes on the trees where he sprays the fox urine. He says it makes the trees that much less attractive, and serves as a warning. And each year, the university lets the local papers know they’re spraying fox urine again.


But if a thief still chops down a tree and drags it into his house … Culbertson says he won’t likely do it again.


“It would be a smell that you’d have a hard time getting rid of.”


Culbertson recommends the method to anyone with a lot of trees to protect. He says the repellant is pretty affordable, and normally wears off after the Christmas season. Most of the supplies, sometimes even fox urine, can be bought at a garden store.


“I use a small, 3 gallon bottle sprayer, typical sort of garden sprayer people would purchase at the hardware store, garden center… And I try to use hot water. The glycerin is very syrupy kind of like corn syrup. So it helps to loosen it up, heat it up and make it less thick. I mix it up, take it out, and just spray the trees by hand.”


Both Jeff Culbertson and Dennis Adams think thieves are just looking for a cheap tree. But Adams still finds the thefts a little unbelievable.


“I think people have to be pretty desperate to steal a tree for Christmas. That seems like it’s kind of in the anti-Christmas spirit to steal.” (Laughs)


Other campus managers, meanwhile…have cooked up their own people repellant. The University of Idaho adds a few ounces of skunk scent. It makes their mix even more memorable.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Rebecca Williams.

What Will Global Warming Bring?

  • Researchers are developing models to try to determine what the effects of global warming will be on the Great Lakes region. Photo by Jerry Bielicki.

Some scientists in the Great Lakes basin are looking at how global warming might be affecting the region, both today and long into the future. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has the story:

Transcript

Some scientists in the great lakes basin are looking at how global warming
Might be affecting the region, both today and long into the future. The
Great lakes radio consortium’s Lester graham reports.


Many researchers in a number of different fields are coming to the same basic conclusion: the earth is warming and it’s affecting the Great Lakes. So far, the effects have been difficult to track, unlike watching the day-to-day changes in the weather. Measuring climate change requires measurements over many decades, or better yet over centuries. There are only a few places where weather measurements have been taken over that long of a period. But, where they have, researchers are finding weather is becoming more chaotic and indications are that the long-term climate is warming.
Many climatologists believe that warming is due at least in part to greenhouse gases, that is, pollution in the upper atmosphere trapping more of the sun’s heat, much in the same way a greenhouse works.


Taylor Jarnigan is a research ecologist with the U-S Environmental Protection agency who’s been looking at one aspect of climate change. He’s been studying whether increasing amounts of lake effect snow from Lake Superior over the past century, especially the past 50 years, is evidence of a change in the temperature of the lake. Preliminary study suggests that the lake’s surface temperature is warming, and that causes more snow when cold air passes over it. But he says the amount of snow has varied widely from year to year.


“Some of this variability is certainly due –in my opinion– to an increasing volatile climate system itself. El niño and la niña are becoming more intense, so you have an increasing oscillation between, say, an usually warm summer followed by an unusually cold winter which tends to produce an unusually large amount of snow.”

The surface temperature of the lake has only been monitored for a few decades, while snowfall depths have been recorded for much longer. Jarnigan says, since there seems to be a direct correlation between the surface temperature of the lake and snowfall, he can calculate the temperature of the lake going back more than a century, and finds that Lake Superior is getting warmer.


When researchers find direct measurements that have been taken for more than a century, they feel fortunate. For example, John Magnuson with the University of Wisconsin has been reviewing the conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That’s the international organization established by the United Nations to study global warming. As a part of that review, Magnuson has been looking over shipping and harbor records that date back 150 years or more to see if there’s evidence of global warming. One thing he’s learned is that lakes and streams aren’t iced over for as long as they once were.


“And in the last hundred-and-fifty years we’ve seen significant changes in lakes around the entire– lakes and streams around the entire northern hemisphere. The date of freezing on the average and the date of break up is changing by about six days per century.”


And Magnuson says that six day change on both ends of the freeze-thaw cycle mean that there’s nearly two weeks less ice coverage than a century ago.


That seems to bolster research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Ecological Research Laboratory. Studies there indicate that over the last several years Great Lakes ice coverage on average is not as far ranging and doesn’t last as long as it did historically.


There’s no certain way to tell what might happen to the Great Lakes if the apparent warming trend continues.


But there are some ways to speculate. There are at least two computer models that try to estimate how much warmer the climate in the Great Lakes region might become by the year 2090. Based on those models, researchers have tried to figure out what that might mean for the area. Peter Sousounis was working at the University of Michigan at the time of that research. He says using either computer model it looks as though crops would produce more. Soybean yields could double. But other predictions are not as beneficial. It looks as though Great Lakes water levels would drop, probably about three feet more than they’ve already dropped, causing some problems for shipping. The study also found algae production would decrease by 10 to 20 percent. That’s important because algae provide the base for the Great Lakes’ food chain. Pine trees might also be all but eliminated from the region, and Sousounis says dangerously high ozone days might occur twice as often.


“Our findings indicate there are some potentially serious consequences in terms of reduced lake levels impacting shipping across the region, some serious economic impacts that if we don’t learn how to deal with these, there are going to be some serious changes in our lifestyles.”


Critics say the models can’t represent all of the variability in nature, so it’s difficult to be sure about any of the predictions. An adjustment here or there can lead to all kinds of alternative scenarios. Sousounis concedes more work needs to be done and more variables plugged into the models, but he’s convinced change will come; the degree of change is the only question.


These days, very few scientists argue against the studies that suggest the earth is warming. John Magnuson with the University of Wisconsin says a few DO argue that the change might merely be natural climate variability – that is, Mother Nature taking an interesting twist– and not necessarily a warm-up caused by manmade greenhouse gases.


“The skeptics, or the more cautious people, what they do when they look at that range of variation over the last thousand years, what they see is there is a signal in the warming that’s coming above the historic variation of climate. And, the climatologists of the world collectively feel there’s very strong evidence that warming is occurring, that greenhouse gases are a very significant part of that warming.”


Magnuson says most mainstream scientists agree climate change is happening, and even dramatic reductions in greenhouse gases won’t prevent some continued global warming over this century. But most say reducing pollution would slow the rise in temperatures and curtail the warming sooner. Only time will tell how that warming will change the Great Lakes region, and all of the researchers we talked to say in the meantime we’ll likely see more chaotic roller coaster type weather patterns as never before in recorded history.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

WHAT WILL GLOBAL WARMING BRING? (Short Version)

  • Researchers are developing models to try to determine what the effects of global warming will be on the Great Lakes region. Photo by Jerry Bielicki.

Researchers are trying to determine how global warming might affect this region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

Researchers are trying to determine how global warming might affect this region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


Using two different sophisticated computer climate models, researchers are asking questions such as what happens to the water levels in the Great Lakes. Both models predict they drop even farther, causing shipping problems. They predict crops will produce more, and they predict some trees will die off. Peter Sousounis is one of the researchers studying the models. He says the region needs to consider what appears to be happening.


“I’m concerned that we won’t be prepared, we will not have done our homework. I think as a society we can certainly adapt, if we are given enough time. And if we don’t adapt, life might adjust to a new mean state all around.”


While nearly all climatologists believe the earth is warming, not everyone agrees whether the changes will be harmful. Sousounis agrees more research needs to be done to try to determine what the effects might be. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.