Tag Archive for: forest

8 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Forests

8 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Forests

Photograph by Wikimedia; distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license

It’s estimated that about 30% of the Earth’s land area is covered in forests. The rainforests of South America, Central America, Africa, Southern Asia, and Australia hover around the equator while the Boreal forest in the Northern Hemisphere span across several continents. Check out this list of fun facts you probably didn’t know about forests.

  1. More than 25% of medicines we use originate in rainforest plants. These medicines are used to treat conditions like malaria, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, pediatric leukemia, and Hodgkin’s disease.
  2. The Boreal forest covers 14% of the Earth’s land. Countries that include the boreal zone are Canada, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Japan.
  3. Forests are like the lungs of our planet. As trees grow, they use photosynthesis to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, aiding in the fight against global warming. Trees continue to store carbon throughout their life cycle which often spans decades.
  4. The tallest tree in the world is taller than Big Ben and the Statue of Liberty! The coastal California redwood tree called Hyperion stands at 115.61 meters tall.
  5. The oldest living organism on the planet, Pando, is believed to be a group of trees connected by the same root system. This set of aspen trees is estimated to be 80,000 years old.
  6. According to the United Nations, in 2014 it was estimated that 13 million people worldwide were employed by the forest sector.
  7. When a tree is harvested, about 85% of it is graded for building construction applications. The remaining 15% is used to make wood pallets and crates for shipping, wood pellets for clean energy, garden mulch, oriented strand board (OSB), and several other products.
  8. No part of a tree goes to waste. Even the sawdust is collected and used to make energy in cogeneration plants to power homes and office buildings.

Nature’s Packaging is committed to North American’s sustainably managed forests and to the wood packaging industries it supports. For more information, visit the Resources section of our website listed below.


Forest Health Benefits from Genomics

Forest Health Benefits from Genomics

Photograph by Flickr; distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license

In addition to sustainably managing North American forests, foresters are working hard to ensure that the trees planted today will survive for the next generation. Canadian scientists working in field called genomics are identifying the trees that natural selection seems to favor and using those saplings to plant the next generation of North American forests.

Natural selection in forests favors the survival of trees capable of withstanding insect attacks, animal attacks, and changing climate conditions. For instance, trees vulnerable to beetle attacks, specifically pines, are either weakened from drought or otherwise unable to produce sufficient amounts of sap to ward off the attacks. Trees that thrive in spite of these hardships have adapted to survive. Using genomics, foresters identify those beneficial genetic traits to ensure they will be passed on to the next generation of trees planted in forests.

The saplings for the next generation are not being genetically modified. Genetic modification is different than genomics. According to the University of Nebraska’s Ag Biosafety department, genetic engineering is the process of manually adding new DNA to an organism. In genomics, no new DNA is being added to the tree’s original DNA.

The benefits of planting more trees that natural selection has favored are plentiful. According to its website, Genome BC, one of Canada’s leading genomics research firms, has invested $77.6 million in funding for forestry related research products. These investments are expected lower costs for the Canadian forest industry. In Canada, all lumber that is imported must be tested for pests and pathogens. In using genomics, those tests could be expedited and could indefinitely lower testing costs.

Another application is selectively breeding cedar trees that have more terpenes. Terpenes are chemicals that leave a bitter taste and increasing the amount of terpenes in cedar saplings would prevent deer from eating them. Sustainably managing forests also means ensuring that there will be forests for our future. If saplings cannot survive then there will not be forests for our future.


4 Ways to Prevent Bluestain

4 Ways to Prevent Bluestain

Bluestain is the most common type of fungi found in wood products that is commonly confused with mold. Unlike mold fungi, bluestain is not linked to human health issues. Bluestain is not airborne. Also, because the bluestain fungi do not digest the wood cell wall, they have minimal impact on the wood structural integrity. In other words, although it looks harmful, it will not decay the wood.

According to the report “Wood Discolourations & Their Preventions, with an Emphasis on Bluestain” there are two types of bluestain: deep and surface.

Deep Bluestain

Photograph by Wikimedia; distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license

Deep bluestain fungi are typically from the genera Ceratocystis, Ophiostoma, Grosmannia, Leptographium and Sphaeropsis that grow deep into sapwood causing dark blue or gray discoloration. The fungi attach themselves to insects that attack trees or logs, especially bark and ambrosia beetles, such as the mountain pine beetle. Any tree or log that is attacked by beetles is likely bluestained. Thus, if a tree has its bark intact, then it won’t be impacted. Trees and logs with damaged bark are also susceptible to be colonized by bluestain fungi. Once the bluestained log is converted to lumber, it shows long blue or gray streaks of color, hence the name “bluestain.”

Unlike decay fungi (or dry rot), bluestain fungi does not destroy the wood cell’s wall. Its impact on the strength of the wood is minimal and it will stop growing once the wood has been heat treated or it has a 19% or less moisture content. Because deep bluestain infiltrates the tree via insects prior to it being felled or as a log in inventory, not much can be done to prevent it from discoloring the wood. Some industries may try to chemically bleach impacted lumber but this is not a widespread industry practice.

Surface Bluestain

Surface bluestain is caused by similar bluestain fungi of the genus Ophiostoma, with Sporothrix or Pesotum anamorphs that invade sapwood after the logs have been processed through a sawmill into lumber. They don’t penetrate the wood deeply but cause discoloration in the wood’s surface that’s sometimes confused with decay mold. Bluestain does not destroy the wood cell’s wall to force decay. As with surface grown molds, these fungi can be removed from the surface of the wood by planing it.

Follow these steps to reduce the chances of fungi from impacting your wood packaging inventory.

1.    Keep it dry. Bluestain thrives in wood that has a moisture content greater than 19%. Keeping it dry and in low-humidity conditions will prevent it from growing. If your inventory is stored outside, tarps or paper wrap are useful, but make sure there are holes that allow for ventilation.
2.    Keep it ventilated. Storing wood pallets in an unventilated space creates ideal conditions for new bluestain growth, especially in warmer weather. If you must store your wood products inside, providing sufficient air ventilation will reduce the likelihood of bluestain.
3.    Keep it clear. Remember, surface bluestain transmits via insects. Ensure the area surrounding your wood products is clear of vegetation or debris that might harbor insects or pests that transmit bluestain.
4.    Keep it off the ground. A 6 to 8-inch elevation will ensure that the bottom layer will stay dry from puddles of rain that might form. This will keep your products dry.


Is it really mold?

Is it really mold?

For many companies, discovering black discoloration on your wood packaging products can be troublesome. At first glance it might look like mold fungi, which are a great cause of concern regarding human health, but it might be something else entirely. There are types of fungi that grow on lumber called bluestain but they are not linked to human health concerns.

Interestingly, there are also other types of naturally occurring defects in lumber that might look like mold but in fact are not biological. Before you “jump the gun” and ask your supplier to replace all your wood pallets with fresh ones, keep in mind there are many types of naturally occurring, non-biological defects that may look scary, but are not caused by microorganisms (fungi, bacteria, etc).

Understanding the difference could save you time, money, and a great deal of worry. The report “Wood Discolourations & Their Preventions, with an Emphasis on Bluestain” discusses the different types of discoloration commonly found on wood products and how to identify them. The report at the bottom of the article includes pictures and examples of each of these discolorations.

Iron stain

Iron stain is considered the most common type of black stain found on wood products. According to the report, “it is caused by elemental iron reacting with phenolic chemicals in the wood to form black iron tannates, or common black ink pigment.” In other words, if particles of iron are deposited on wood during railway transport or if steel wire, staples, or nails are in direct contact with wood and the wood becomes wet, the wood might become stained dark with iron. Even saw blades will sometimes cause these streaks.

Brown Stain or Zebra Stain

In western hemlock, a type of discoloration occurs only after the wood is dried in a kiln. Whereas the unaffected areas appear light yellow, affected areas appear dark brown, making for noticeable differences in surface color variation. Below the surface of susceptible pieces, sometimes the brown stain will appear black after the wood is dried. This is known as zebra stain. Zebra stains happen when iron or manganese darkens the browning and makes it turn black.

Sun Exposure

If your wood product is left outside and exposed to the sun, over time it will darken (like a sun tan) and may make the wood appear dirty or damaged. The impact of sun exposure causes a chemical change in the tannins of the wood that, over time, react to the sun’s exposure. If this happens to your wood packaging product, or other lumber product, it’s said to be “weathered.”

Enzymatic Discolorations

Red alder, oaks, beech, maples, and other hardwood species are commonly susceptible to enzymatic discoloration. This is the reaction of enzymes or  polyphenolic compounds in living cells. This produces a grayish or brownish tone in sapwood.

Mineral Discolorations

Typically seen in the forms of dark lines or streaks in oak, green or brown patches in sugar maple, or purple to black areas in yellow poplar; mineral discoloration sometimes develops in standing or fallen trees in mineral rich soils.

Preventing discolorations caused from iron stain and weathering are quite manageable. If you store wood products outdoors, keep them covered yet ventilated to prevent weathering. Also, keep your ferrous metals from having direct contact with lumber to prevent black ink stains. Other types of black stains and discolorations, like zebra stains, enzymatic discolorations or mineral discolorations, are naturally occurring and challenging to control.


Forest Health and Fungi

Forest Health and Fungi

Photograph by Wikimedia; distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license. Modified by CombineZP

Fungi are all around us. It’s estimated that there are at least 5.1 million different species of fungi in the world. One of the reasons why trees grow to be so large is that certain types of fungi pass vital nutrients to them underground that they might not otherwise have access to.

These nutrients help trees grow, allowing to them to sequester carbon from the atmosphere during their growth phase.

Forests Need Fungi

In forests, certain types of fungi play a very interesting role. Research scientist and mycologist Adnan Uzunovic notes,

“Fungi are very important for nature and forest as they are natural recyclers and many decay fungi do a very important job. Many fungi are present in forests have various roles in forest ecosystem. Apart from those that are recyclers, some are mycorrhizae fungi that form symbiotic relationships with plants providing necessary nutrient to trees. A small minority of fungi are plant pathogens that can kill live trees or affect leaves and needles or cause cankers on stems and twigs, or cause root rots.”

When something in a forest dies, decay fungi help ensure those byproducts are reusable to other forms of forest life. In other words, they help ensure that nothing goes to waste. Mycorrhizae fungi, on the other hand, help plants in forests absorb water and nutrients. In return, the plant provides the fungus with carbohydrates it formed from photosynthesis. It’s a symbiotic relationship because the fungus and plant help each other survive.

Trees Trade Resources

In 1997, Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver discovered one of the first pieces of evidence that Mycorrhizae fungi is capable of transferring carbon between a Douglas fir tree and a paper birch tree. It was later discovered that they also facilitate an exchange of nitrogen and phosphorus between plants and that when this type of fungi are paired with a tree, the tree’s immune system becomes heightened, allowing it to better defend itself from more damaging threats, like those from insects or beetles.


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