Tree for All

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
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On a hot day in June, Xavier Ashbridge found himself shaking Hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) onto a pristine tree at the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Woodman Farm. “I’ve never deliberately infected trees before,” said Ashbridge, the owner of Integrated Pest Management of New Hampshire who was participating in the Community Tree Farm Day hosted by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station (NHAES), the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA), and UNH Cooperative Extension.

Far from a typical day of identifying and controlling pests, Ashbridge – and the rest of the event’s participants – had been asked to establish the infection by Kyle Lombard, a forest entomologist with the NH Division of Forests and Lands. “You’ll be able to tell your grandkids you started this,” said Lombard of the University’s insectary, designed to provide an ideal habitat for the Laricrobius Nigrinus beetles that feed on invasive HWA.

In the past, Lombard was forced to either go out to Idaho and shake trees to collect the beetles or purchase them from a lab for more than five dollars apiece. And with last year’s emergency resources earmarked for Emerald Ash Borer control, getting the upper hand on HWA would have to wait until funds were reestablished through legislation to create a local insectary in which beetles can be harvested right here in New Hampshire. Of the Woodman Farm acreage devoted to a habitat for Laricrobius Nigrinus, Lombard said, “We took the overstory off since there’s no way to shake and harvest beetles from so high up.” Lombard and his team developed just the right conditions for the beetles to thrive. “We infected the understory with woolly adelgid and fertilized the trees with nitrogen,” said Lombard. “Nitrogen infused Hemlocks – the beetles love it.” 

The insectary was just one stop on a multi-site tour of woodlands properties in use for the kind of research and management that benefits all stakeholders of the University and citizens of the state. Jon Wraith, Dean of COLSA and Director of NHAES, welcomed the participants to the event in the morning. “Having rural landscapes on campus is rare these days,” said Wraith. “UNH has a broad variety of woodlands on or adjacent to the NHAES facilities where you can see the value of working landscapes made possible by the Woodlands Office. Forests and dairies are the biggest natural resources industries in the region, and what the Woodlands Office does in that regard is exemplary.”

UNH Land Use Coordinator Stephen Eisenhaure gave an overview of the management goals for the woodlands, including an explanation of the permanent plot system that incorporates a couple hundred sites spread across four separate properties. “The permanent plot system was designed in preparation for future, unknown research,” said Eisenhaure who later gave participants a tour of the well-groomed universally accessible trail at College Woods. Resting on one of the benches along the smooth path, tree farmer Dorothy Bean exclaimed, “This is a boulevard.” Continuing the tour, Professor of Forestry Economics Ted Howard discussed the history and future of the 250-acre College Woods, which receives 14,000 visitors annually, and emphasized the importance of this on-campus resource to experiential learning. “It’s so easy to come from the classroom to illustrate what we’re teaching,” said Howard.

Participants also learned from Extension Wildlife Assistant Emma Carcagno ‘08 about University and community efforts to restore the state-endangered New England Cottontail rabbit habitat. “There are wide ranging efforts to restore the Cottontail population and prevent federal endangerment status,” said Carcagno, leading the group past a strand of trees so thick with undergrowth one could only see a few feet beyond. “We know the potential of creating a good habitat,” said Carcagno, “and we’ve had a lot of luck with that in New Hampshire.”

In addition to the aforementioned tours, participants were treated to an overview of the equipment in the UNH Sawmill with Professor of Forestry at the Thompson School, Don Quigley; a visit to the Organic Dairy in Lee with Professor of Natural Resources John Aber and his Ph.D. student, Matt Smith, for an explanation of how the new composting facility closes the loop on bedding and energy generation; a tour of a timber harvest area in the MacDonald Lot off of Orchard Drive with Professor of Natural Resources Tom Lee who explained how researchers are evaluating different approaches to controlling invasive glossy buckthorn; and a group lunch at Holloway Commons.

Participants of the Community Tree Farm Day enjoyed a foray into a portion of the 3,800 acres of forested land that encompasses the award-winning UNH Tree Farm. The woodlands are managed in support of the University’s mission to provide areas for educational purposes, research opportunities, and public benefit for students as well as citizens of the region. Outreach events like the Community Tree Farm Day are a valuable way to connect managers and researchers with the stakeholders whose lives and livelihoods are positively impacted by scalable projects undertaken at the University. This event was co-sponsored by the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, and the Granite State Division Society of American Foresters.