Connecticut has seen a tremendous increase in reforestation over the past century, with noticeable overgrowth and lack of management. The shrinking average parcel size of forested land in Connecticut calls for scale-appropriate management, but this is difficult with a high number of stakeholders. Even with increased roadside vegetation management and activities involving small-acreage treatments for wildlife habitats, people are generally reluctant to cut down trees. More diverse management options need to be made available to conserve working forests, which are forests managed without altering the ecosystem as a woodland. Sustainable harvesting can be a viable solution.
People love their roadside and yard trees, but they also care about a reliable power supply. As a human dimensions researcher on the Stormwise project, I am interested in how people make decisions about their trees in the face of these competing values. One of the first steps in gaining this understanding is to evaluate perceptions of both storm-related, and specifically tree-related, power outages.
Recent storms in the Northeast, like Tropical Storm Irene, the October 2011 snowstorm, and Hurricane Sandy, have brought a lot of attention to the problem of storm-related power outages. We consider events like this to be environmental focusing events, because they cause the media and the public to focus in on the problem and potentially change the conversation about both the problem and possible solutions. Continue reading
Jason Parent and Dr. John Volin
Stormwise will take many years to put into practice and will require a great deal of effort spent on educating and obtaining the cooperation of community officials and land owners. To get the most benefit in the short-term, Stormwise will focus on areas where the forest presents the greatest risk to power lines. Since Connecticut has nearly 17,000 miles of power lines, it doesn’t seem practical to evaluate the forest along the power lines from the ground, but fortunately, through remote sensing, we can learn much about the forest and the risk it poses to utility infrastructure from airborne sensors. Airborne light detection and ranging technology (LiDAR) allows us to measure tree heights and stand density as well as the slope and orientation of the terrain. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a computer system that allows us to manage and analyze geographical data, we can use the LiDAR data to identify trees that are close enough and tall enough to be a potential risk to power lines. These data can then be incorporated into the University of Connecticut’s storm damage prediction model thereby making it more robust in its predictive ability.
During last summer’s Emerald Ash Borer Survey I drove along River Road in Killingworth somewhat amused by signage. A tree crew contracted to the power company had recently performed some right-of-way maintenance that included tree trimming and removals. The amusing signage indicated possession (or not) of the wood material left behind. “Don’t touch this wood!”, “Spoken for” and “Please!!! Take this Wood!!! Free!!” and variations thereof were all in evidence. Such scenes are not uncommon where power right-of-ways have been maintained. What is interesting is that all these signs also subtly indicate value, to someone, who might want to burn it or sell it or use it as a chopping block. Even the homeowner who wants to give the wood away reminds us that it is Free! Acknowledging that it has value and they do us a favor by letting us haul it away.
Authors: Jenna Klinck and Amanda Bunce, with Dr. Mark Rudnicki
At the top of a 40 ft. ladder, harnessed safely to a gently swaying hickory tree, UConn graduate student Jenna Klinck secures a tilt sensor that will record the movements of this tree for years to come. She is a researcher on a project in Dr. Mark Rudnicki’s tree biomechanics lab, part of the initiative called Stormwise. This part of the Stormwise team is measuring changes in tree sway dynamics with intent to evaluate and improve the resiliency of the forest edge in storm-force winds. Recent destructive storm events in the northeast have inspired utility companies, researchers and other collaborators to work together on this project, in an attempt to better prepare our communities. In the past, tree sway studies have been focused primarily on conifers where the timber industry can suffer severe economic losses from storm damage, and little attention has been paid to deciduous hardwood species. A critical look at how to best manage northern hardwood forests is long overdue, and UConn and its partners are taking the initiative.