college of forestry

Successful control of reproduction could help address concerns about use of engineered trees

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Forestry scientists have found a way to arrest the development of flowers in poplar trees, paving the way for control of the unintentional spread of engineered or non-native tree species.

With this method, researchers raise the possibility of developing trees as crops for biofuel and other industrial purposes while preventing them from becoming established in nearby forests.

Our goal isn’t to make reproductively modified trees just to have that trait, said Amy Klocko, postdoctoral scientist in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. It’s to prevent genetically modified or non-native trees from spreading, either to wild forests or to other plantations. This would help alleviate concerns over gene flow, whether for scientific or ethical reasons. 

Klocko is the lead author of a paper published today in Nature Biotechnology, reporting the results of more than a decade of research. She and her colleagues used a technique known as RNA interference to suppress a gene that is known to play a central role in the development of flowers in poplars and many other plants.

The gene, which scientists call LEAFY, is still present in the trees, but RNA interference acts like a brake to slow down the gene’s activity. Scientists grew trees containing the gene-slowing technology in experimental field trials authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Willamette Valley. Before the trees flowered, researchers collected hundreds of small twigs containing flower buds and studied the flowers that emerged in the laboratory.

We noticed that some of the reproductive parts were tiny (and undeveloped), said Klocko. And we wondered if the flowers would have that same feature when they opened in the plantation. And they did.

By studying genetic activity in those trees, researchers then showed that the undeveloped flowers could be traced to the impact of RNA interference on the LEAFY gene.

In the future, the finding could be applied to commercial plantations of fast-growing hybrid poplars, which are not genetically engineered in the United States. Other reproductively modified trees — such as bananas, seedless oranges and many ornamentals — are commonly grown in agriculture and landscaping, but these trees have been produced using conventional forms of breeding such as hybridization and intentionally induced changes to DNA.

“People have made pollen-free male plants before, including trees,” said Steve Strauss, an OSU distinguished professor of forestry and a co-author on the paper. “But the approach we used is based on detailed knowledge of the genes that direct the production of flowers in nature, and the trees are designed to be completely incapable of producing pollen or seeds. We’ve turned down a gene that is essential for all flowering.” 

The use of RNA interference to change the expression of LEAFY is the first time genetic engineering technology has been used to produce a seedless forest tree of any kind, Strauss noted.

Strauss, Klocko and their team are analyzing tree growth rates and other characteristics to see if slowing down LEAFY has consequences beyond flower development. Their data show that the trees are identical in appearance and do not differ in growth rates from unmodified trees. They are hopeful that by modifying flowering, researchers might ultimately increase wood production.

The researchers are also studying similar gene containment mechanisms in apple, sweetgum and eucalypt trees.

“The principle applies everywhere,” said Strauss.

Scientists have known for more than two decades that LEAFY is key to flower development. This study is the first to show what would happen in a tree with modified LEAFY activity and grown in the field over several years.

“We are hopeful that this technology, or the related technology of gene editing applied to this gene, will reduce tensions and regulatory obstacles to the use of highly productive, genetically engineered or exotic trees, said Strauss.

There is no question that advanced genetic engineering methods, used responsibly, can increase productivity and sustainability of plantations, but the question of when and if to allow gene dispersal is a real point of contention for both scientists and society. We hope this technology helps us to get beyond this longstanding concern.”

Support for the research came from the USDA, the National Science Foundation, the J. Frank Schmidt Charitable Foundation and the Tree Genomics and Biosafety Research Cooperative, a two-decade-old consortium of university and tree growing industries based at OSU.

Story By: 

Amy Klocko, 541-737-6897, amy.klocko@oregonstate.edu; Steve Strauss, 541-737-6578, steve.strauss@oregonstate.edu

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RNA silencing (RNAi) leads to catkin (flower) changes that show up in these photos.

Conservation scientists call for global strategy to halt threatened animal extinctions

CORVALLIS, Ore. Aiming to stop the looming extinction of large wild-animal species across the globe, a group of international conservation scientists has issued a call for actions to halt further declines.

In todays edition of the journal BioScience, 43 wildlife experts from six continents note that an extinction crisis is unfolding for large mammals, from those that are poorly known, such as the scimitar-horned oryx, to more familiar species such as gorillas and rhinoceroses.

They have issued a 13-point declaration that calls for acknowledgement of threats, a halt to harmful practices, a global commitment to conservation and recognition of a moral obligation to protect the planets large animals, or megafauna.

The more I look at the trends facing the worlds largest terrestrial mammals, the more concerned I am we could lose these animals just as science is discovering how important they are to ecosystems and to the services they provide to people, said William Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and lead author. Its time to really think about conserving them because declines in their numbers and habitats are happening quickly.

Ripple has studied the ecological effects of predators such as cougar and wolves in North America, and collaborated with other wildlife experts to analyze global trends facing large carnivores — wolves, lions, tigers and bears — as well as large herbivores, including elephants, rhinos, zebras and tapirs.

“Most mammalian megafauna face dramatic range contractions and population declines,” the authors wrote. “In fact, 59 percent of the world’s largest carnivores and 60 percent of the world’s largest herbivores are classified as threatened with extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List. This situation is particularly dire in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, home to the greatest diversity of extant megafauna.”

Among the most serious threats to endangered animals, they wrote, are the expansion of livestock and crop operations, illegal hunting, deforestation and human population growth.

Human communities stand to lose key elements of their natural heritage if megafauna species are allowed to go extinct, said co-author Peter Lindsey of Panthera, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild cat species.

In addition, the disappearance of such species could significantly undermine the future potential for communities to benefit from tourism. In areas where people live with these species, there is a need for mechanisms to promote coexistence. We need to minimize the negative impacts on local communities that stem from human-wildlife conflict or risk to human life. 

The scientists call for action on two fronts: expanded interventions at scales that are relevant to animals habitat needs, and large-scale policy shifts to alter the ways in which people interact with large animals.

The authors emphasized that some conservation initiatives have had success.

The Range Wide Conservation Program for Cheetah and African Wild Dog provides a good model on how to enact conservation action across the massive scales required, said Sarah Durant, co-author and a wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Zoological Society of London.

This program has established a consensus across key stakeholders in multiple countries on a common conservation goal and plan of action to reverse declines in these species. Frameworks like these help everyone to work together most effectively towards a common goal of conservation.

However, they added, the resources for effective implementation of conservation strategies are seldom available in regions with the greatest needs. “Therefore,” they wrote, “the onus is on developed countries, which have long ago lost most of their megafauna,” to conserve their own species and to support initiatives in other regions.

The article is published in six languages in addition to English: Spanish, French, Chinese, Malay, Portuguese and Thai. “The translations were provided by some of the co-authors,” said Ripple.  

We must not go quietly into this impoverished future, the authors wrote. Rather, we believe it is our collective responsibility, as scientists who study megafauna, to act to prevent their decline. We therefore present a call to the broader international community to join together in conserving the remaining terrestrial megafauna.

Among Ripples co-authors are Oregon State colleagues Michael Nelson, Robert Beschta and Christopher Wolf, all in the College of Forestry; and Taal Levi in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Some of the other organizations represented among the authors include the International Union for the Conservation of Nature; World Wildlife Fund; the University of Oxford; the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; the University of Pretoria and Nelson Mandela University in South Africa; the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Beijing Normal University in China; the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales in Australia; the Universidad Estadual Paulista in Brazil; the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bangalore, India; and the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.

The study this story is based on is available online at http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/lookup/doi/10.1093/biosci/biw092.

Story By: 

William Ripple, Oregon State University, 541-737-3056, bill.ripple@oregonstate.edu; Sarah Durant, Wildlife Conservation Society, sdurant@wcs.org

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Eastern gorilla by Peter Stoel

African Elephant_Amboseli Kenya_Photograph Varun R Goswami

Black rhino GFRNR 2009 G Kerley


puma also known as cougar, credit william ripple

Small headwater streams export surprising amounts of carbon out of Pacific Northwest forest

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Scientists have tracked a higher-than-expected amount of carbon flowing out of a Pacific Northwest forest from month to month through a small headwater stream, suggesting that forested watersheds may not store quite as much carbon as previously thought.

In a paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research — Biogeosciences, a team led by Alba Argerich, an assistant professor of research in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, reported that a small headwater stream in the Cascades exports, on average, about 6 percent of what forests absorb from the atmosphere and store.

“Although we have a good understanding of the general global carbon cycle, there are still some details we haven’t quantified well,” said Argerich. “One of them is how carbon is stored and exported in small streams. Streams of this size drain three-quarters of the landscape, and when you add up their total influence, they may make quite a difference to the carbon budget.

Our work suggests that we may be underestimating their influence on carbon dynamics,” she added. 

In the past, researchers have generally ignored the role of small streams in the carbon cycle. As a result, a lack of data has prevented scientists from including these streams in computer models. The study by Argerich and her colleagues is one of the most detailed assessments yet of carbon exports in streams.

It was thought that most carbon is exported from streams as dissolved and particulate matter traveling downstream. However, Argerich and her team have shown that more than 25 percent of the carbon leaving streams goes into the atmosphere.

What we’re seeing is that these small streams export quite a bit of carbon, which we didn’t expect, Argerich said. A lot of it goes downstream, but some of it is in the form of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere.               

Carbon is a critical element in the science of climate change, and the Pacific Northwest has some of the highest carbon storage of any forests in the world. Since streams represent a "leak" of carbon out of the forest, efforts to measure carbon stored in these systems should also account for carbon exported and lost by streams, said Roy Haggerty, co-author and interim dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State.

The study was conducted by a collaborative team including Oregon State faculty and graduate students as well as scientists in the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service. They analyzed data collected from 2004 to 2013 in a 50-year old second-growth forest at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in the Cascades east of Eugene, where researchers monitor many forms of carbon.

Carbon flow in small streams has a distinct seasonal pattern. Like an exhaled breath lasting six months or more, the amount of carbon carried downstream starts to increase as rains arrive in the fall. By January, the carbon flowing out of small watersheds typically reaches a peak and then starts to decline. As water levels drop during the summer, little carbon moves out of the forests in streams, mostly through export to the atmosphere.

In general, carbon moves out of the forest in multiple forms — bits of leaves, seeds, branches and other detritus — as well as dissolved in stream water, carried in sediment and pumped back into the air as carbon dioxide gas. Altogether, the amount of carbon from small streams in the Pacific Northwest is similar to the average exported by large rivers globally, said Argerich.

Funding for the research was provided by the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research program and the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Story By: 

Alba Argerich, alba.argerich@oregonstate.edu, 541-758-8856; Roy Haggerty, roy.haggerty@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-5195

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WS1-Carbon_Alba copy


Studies confirm effect of wolves, elk on tree recovery in Yellowstone National Park

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An analysis of 24 studies over a 15-year period has confirmed that wolves and their influence on elk represent a major reason for the recovery of trees that had previously been declining for decades in Yellowstone National Park.

Despite long-term trends of increased temperatures and reduced precipitation, trees such as cottonwood, willow, aspen and other woody species have been showing signs of accelerated growth in many areas since wolves were restored to the park in 1995. Beavers and riparian songbirds are also showing signs of coming back to areas where they had been missing or in decline since the 1930s.

Still, it will likely take many years for established shrubs and trees to reach a size sufficient to produce the abundance of berries and seeds that support a diverse ecosystem.

Those are among the conclusions reported today in the journal Biological Conservation by Robert Beschta and William Ripple, two professors in the Oregon State University College of Forestry. They analyzed the results of 24 studies of streamside vegetation published since 2001 and reviewed long-term trends in temperature, precipitation, snowpack and stream discharge.

“When I first started studying this in 2001,” said Beschta, “I was skeptical that elk, a native ungulate, could stop nearly all cottonwood recruitment. But it was the elk that had damaged plant communities during the period when wolves were absent, and the reductions in elk browsing, since wolves have returned, are allowing them to begin recovering.”

In subsequent studies, Beschta and Ripple, as well as other researchers, measured the diameter of cottonwoods and aspen in the park’s northern range.  They found young trees almost completely missing.

“For decades, nothing had been growing into the smaller age classes of trees because of intensive elk browsing,” Beschta said.

In their latest assessment, Beschta and Ripple reviewed 11 published studies of willow, six of aspen and five of cottonwood as well as one each of service berry and thinleaf alder. All but two of the studies showed increases in height, diameter, canopy cover or recruitment for these species. The area of land covered by willow, for example, doubled between 1991 and 2006. By 2003, young aspen trees in many areas were starting to grow measurably higher.

More than half of the reviewed studies also measured browsing effects on plants, caused principally by elk. Those studies concluded that tree recovery had begun mostly because of a decrease in browsing.

“Climate may influence whether trees recover more quickly in some areas than in others to some degree, but the real issue for plants growing in Yellowstone is, how often are they browsed by ungulates?” Beschta added.

Elk numbers in Yellowstone have declined by more than two-thirds since 1995, from a high of nearly 20,000 to less than 5,000 today. The numbers and impacts of deer and pronghorn are relatively small, but in the past decade, bison herds have grown, and they tend to reside in valley bottoms much of the year. Bison grazing has prevented cottonwoods, willow and other plants from successfully recovering in parts of the Lamar Valley, he said.

Over the past 20 years, mean temperatures and precipitation in the northern range have changed in comparison to the long-term mean going back to 1895, when recordkeeping began. As measured at the Mammoth weather station in Yellowstone, annual mean temperatures today are more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in 1895 and annual precipitation almost 3 inches lower.        

Research results following wolf reintroduction are generally supportive of the concept that the contemporary carnivore guild has, via a trophic cascade, mediated the effects of elk herbivory on riparian plant communities, the authors wrote. The ongoing reduction in elk herbivory has thus been helping to recover and sustain these plant communities in northern Yellowstone, thereby improving important food-web and habitat support for numerous terrestrial and aquatic organisms.

Story By: 

Bob Beschta, robert.beschta@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-4292; William Ripple, bill.ripple@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-3056

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Increased heights of young aspen since wolves (1)

Fig. 1 -Riparian willow recovery

Tall willows with elk-winter

Carbon stored in Pacific Northwest forests reflects timber harvest history

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The amount of carbon stored in tree trunks, branches, leaves and other biomass — what scientists call “aboveground live carbon” — is determined more by timber harvesting than by any other environmental factor in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, according to a report published by researchers at Oregon State University.

In forests that are about 150 years old or less, live carbon above the ground is associated primarily with the age of a stand — reflecting how long ago it was harvested — rather than with climate, soil, topography or fire. However, as forests mature into “old growth,” the density of carbon is determined largely by factors other than harvesting.

The Pacific Northwest has some of the highest forest-carbon densities in the world. Understanding how much carbon is stored in growing forests is a critical component of international efforts to reduce climate change.

Researchers found that air temperatures, sun exposure and soils were also important in driving the variation in live carbon across the region. High-elevation forests tend to be cooler and contain lower amounts of carbon than do low-elevation forests.

Researchers conducted the study at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in the Cascade Range east of Eugene. They combined data from two types of measurements: LiDAR (an aerial mapping technique that uses lasers) and ground-based forest inventories in which scientists measured aboveground live carbon in 702 forest plots. The study is one of the few to quantify carbon in living forest biomass in mountainous terrain.

Harold Zald, research associate in the College of Forestry, is lead author of the paper published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management.

“Very few studies have looked at above-ground carbon at a landscape scale with the combination of LiDAR and detailed disturbance history (logging and fire) that we have at the H.J. Andrews Forest,” said Zald. “These findings can be applied to the Douglas-fir dominated forests on the west slope of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington.”

The researchers found that fire was not a significant driver of carbon density in the H.J. Andrews. In the last century, these forests have experienced little severe “stand replacing fire,” but it’s possible that fire played a significant role in shaping the structure of old-growth forests and increasing carbon density over time. “Remnant old-growth trees resulting from non-stand replacing fires likely enhance the recovery of forest C (carbon) density,” they wrote.

The study was conducted by researchers at Oregon State, the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna, Austria. 

Story By: 

Harold Zald, 541-737-8719, harold.zald@oregonstate.edu

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Old-growth forests may provide buffer against rising temperatures

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The soaring canopy and dense understory of an old-growth forest could provide a buffer for plants and animals in a warming world, according to a study from Oregon State University published today in Science Advances.

Comparing temperature regimes under the canopy in old-growth and plantation forests in the Oregon Cascades, researchers found that the characteristics of old growth reduce maximum spring and summer air temperatures as much as 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit), compared to those recorded in younger second-growth forests.

Landowners who include biodiversity as a management goal, the scientists said, could advance their aims by fostering stands with closed canopies, high biomass and complex understory vegetation.

Management practices that create these types of “microclimates” for birds, amphibians, insects and even large mammals could promote conservation for temperature-sensitive species, the authors wrote, if temperatures rise as a result of global warming.

“Though it is well-known that closed-canopy forests tend to be cooler than open areas, little is known about more subtle temperature differences between mature forest types,” said Sarah Frey, postdoctoral scholar in the OSU College of Forestry and lead author on the study. “We found that the subtle but important gradient in structure from forest plantations to old growth can have a marked effect on temperatures in these forests.”

Temperature is also strongly affected by elevation and even small changes in topography, but the way forests are managed was a critical factor in explaining temperature differences. Researchers at Oregon State and Pacific Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service conducted the study at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest east of Eugene.

Frey and her colleagues collected temperature data in 2012 and 2013 at 183 locations, just over one third of which were in plantations. The team also analyzed data on forest structure collected through LiDAR, an aerial mapping technique that uses lasers to detect very small-scale (less than six feet) structural differences in forests.

“To our knowledge, ours is the first broad-scale test of whether subtle changes in forest structure due to differing management practices influence forest temperature regimes,” they wrote.

“To the untrained eye, plantations might look similar to old-growth forest in terms of the aspects that are well known to influence temperature, particularly canopy cover,” said Matt Betts, Oregon State professor and co-author. “So, the magnitude of the cooling effect of old-growth structure is somewhat surprising.”

The researchers found that variations in the landscape, such as elevation and slope, helped to explain temperature differences over short distances of 100 feet or less. However, at broader scales, the characteristics of the forest itself exerted a significant influence.

Funding for the research was provided by the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research program and the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Story By: 

Sarah Frey, 541-224-2115, sarah.frey@oregonstate.edu; Matt Betts, 541-737-3841, matthew.betts@oregonstate.edu

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Ancient bones point to shifting grassland species as climate changes

CORVALLIS, Ore. – More rainfall during the growing season may have led to one of the most significant changes in the Earth’s vegetation in the distant past, and similar climate changes could affect the distribution of plants in the future as well, a new study suggests.

In a report in Science Advances, an analysis was done of mammoth and bison hair, teeth and bones, along with other data. It concludes that a changing climate — particularly increasing rainfall and not just atmospheric carbon dioxide — explains the expansion of grassland plants during the latter part of the Neogene, a geologic era that includes the present.

The research was led by Jennifer Cotton as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Utah and in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. She is now an assistant professor at the California State University, Northridge.

Scientists have long known that some grassland species became more abundant during this period, including the ancestors of corn, sugar cane and sorghum. Known as C4 grasses, they use a different method of metabolism via photosynthesis from most other types of vegetation, called C3 grasses. They tend to thrive under warm, moist conditions, in addition to low levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“The point of the work was to understand what drove one of the most dramatic biological transitions in the past 65 million years, and also to better understand the past so that we can make predictions about the future,” said Cotton. “We know that the balance between C3 and C4 grasses is controlled by both atmospheric CO2 and climate, but the relative influence of each of these factors has not been clear.

To understand what drove that transition, the researchers analyzed carbon isotopes in 632 samples of bison and mammoth tissues from across North America over the past 18,000 years, corresponding to the time between the peak of the last ice age to the present. The researchers were able to show that, over time, the animals’ diets shifted toward more C4 plants and those plants gradually spread north.

By combining their findings with data on climate, temperature and changing carbon dioxide concentrations, the researchers showed that increasing precipitation during the growing season was the single most important factor in the spread of C4 grasses. In recent years, increases in rainfall and temperature have enabled farmers to grow corn in the upper Midwest in areas dominated by wheat.

“Both atmospheric CO2 and climate have been changing and will continue to change in the future,” said Cotton, “and many have suggested that additional CO2 in the atmosphere will benefit C3 grasses, causing them to outcompete C4 grasses. Our results suggest that climate, rather than CO2 fertilization, will drive future changes to C3 and C4 grass distributions, which will likely benefit C4 grasses in much of the Great Plains.”

The National Science Foundation provided funding for the research. Cotton’s co-authors included Christopher J. Still and Thomas M. Mosier at Oregon State, Thure E. Cerling at the University of Utah and Kathryn A. Hoppe at the University of Washington.

The paper is online at http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/3/e1501346.

Story By: 

Jennifer Cotton, jen.cotton@csun.edu, 818-677-7978

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Advanced wood products center receives economic development grant

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The federal Economic Development Administration has approved a grant of nearly $450,000 to Oregon State University to jump-start the use of new engineered wood products in the building industry.

The National Center for Advanced Wood Products Manufacturing and Design, a collaboration between Oregon State and the University of Oregon, will develop testing to help integrate mass timber construction into Oregon’s building code standards, while maintaining a close working relationship with the Oregon Building Codes Division.

The goal of the center is to develop new wood products, such as cross laminated timber, or CLT panels, that can be manufactured and certified for use in Oregon. It will also try to create economic opportunities for rural communities that have lost jobs to globalized commodity markets and dramatically reduced harvest levels.

“Code approval for new uses of wood products in these markets requires dedicated performance testing,” said Geoff Huntington, director of strategic initiatives for the OSU College of Forestry. “This testing is key to unlocking the engineered wood supply chain to meet growing demand.”

Developers in the Northwest and Pacific Rim countries may use CLT for its resilient, energy-efficient properties. The D.R. Johnson Lumber Company in Riddle, Oregon, has become the nation’s first certified manufacturer of CLT for construction purposes.

“We will use funds to work with manufacturers and commercial developers to complete performance testing of Oregon-manufactured wood building components for specific projects,” said Huntington. “Our objective is to make CLT and other innovative uses of mass timber products technically feasible, economically viable and accessible alternatives for architects and developers seeking to use Oregon products to meet growing consumer demand for healthy, sustainable buildings.”

Projects using innovative mass timber projects are already in the planning stages in Portland and Corvallis. In Portland, LEVER Architecture is designing a 12-story CLT building in the Pearl District, and in Corvallis, OSU plans to use the material in constructing new teaching and research facilities for the College of Forestry.

Story By: 

Geoff Huntington, 541-737-9103

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Illustration courtesy of LEVER Architecture

Fungal pigments provide commercial opportunity for paint and dye manufacturers

CORVALLIS, Ore. Oregon State University researchers have developed a new method for producing stable pigments from fungi, a process they say can be scaled up to match the needs of manufacturers of paints, wood finishes and textile dyes.

Scientists have known for some time that fungi make pigments with blue-green, reddish-orange, yellow and brown hues, and since the Middle Ages, artists have used woods colored by fungal pigments, a process known as spalting.

But while the microorganisms can be grown in solution, capturing the pigments has required the use of toxic solvents, said Sara Robinson, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Forestry. Robinson has now found a way to use oils to harvest the pigments, and OSU has applied for a provisional patent on the technique.

Fungal pigments are stable and sticky, qualities that make them commercially useful.

Their role in nature is to persist, to preserve the resource for the fungus, said Robinson, who conducts research on fungi and their impacts on wood.

In a past research study in the Journal of Coatings, she compared the effects of spalting on 16 Pacific Northwest woods by inoculating them with three different fungi. In a study in the journal Coloration Technology, she reported the results of testing three fungal pigments on fabrics such as bleached cotton, spun polyester and worsted wool.

All three pigments utilized in this study show signicant potential for use as textile dyes,"  she and her co-authors wrote. 

The pigments extracted from spalting fungi can be carried in oil and water-based wood finishes and wood stabilizers. Wood workers would go nuts about having a finish that is spalted,Robinson said.

Information about licensing the use of the pigment production process is available from Denis Sather in the Oregon State Office for Commercialization and Corporate Development.

Story By: 

Sara Robinson, 541-737-4329; Denis Sather, 541-737-8806

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Close up of Chlorociboria species fruiting bodies (Elf’s Cup) (Photo by Sara Robinson, Oregon State University)

Chlorociboria species on malt agar, five point inoculation. (Photo by Sara Robinson, Oregon State University)

Mutated Chlorociboria species on malt agar, five point inoculation (Photo by Sara Robinson, Oregon State University)

Chlorociboria species fruiting bodies on log (Elf’s Cup) in the McDonald-Dunn Forest, Oregon (Photo by Sara Robinson, Oregon State University)

Increasing urban and rural wildfire risks featured in Starker Lecture Series

CORVALLIS, Ore. — With wildfires increasing in frequency and threatening urban as well as rural communities, Oregon State University’s annual Starker Lecture Series will tackle trends in living with fire in the Pacific Northwest.

The series, “Burning Questions: People, Forests, and Fire,” is hosted by the OSU College of Forestry. It begins Thursday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. with a film, “Legacy of Fire: The Story of the Tillamook Burn,” followed by a talk by Doug Decker, state forester, at the Whiteside Theater, 361 S.W. Madison Ave. in downtown Corvallis.

Told through the voices of the men and women who lived through a series of severe wildfires in the 1930s and 1940s, the film also shows the dramatic forest that grew from the ashes. Following the film, Decker will offer some historic perspective of the significance of the fire; its impact on the development and direction of the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon State College of Forestry; and how people in Oregon and across the West need to adjust to new realities.

Other events in the series include:

  • Feb. 18: “Fire Ecology, Management and Policy in the Western United States,” with Scott Stephens, University of California, Berkeley, 3:30 p.m. in the LaSells Stewart Center, C&E Hall, at OSU.
  • March 3: “Exposure of Buildings to Wildfire,” with Steve Quarles, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, 3:30 pm at the River House in Bend, Ore.
  • April 7: “Living with Fire,” with Ed Smith, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, 3:30 p.m. in the LaSells Stewart Center, C&E Hall, at OSU. Smith will follow his presentation with a workshop for community fire prevention educators on April 8.

A reception and discussion will be held after each lecture. In addition, at the March 3 and April 7 lectures, vendors will offer services and information about fire safety and prevention.

The Starker Lecture Series is sponsored by the Starker family in memory of T.J. and Bruce Starker, prominent leaders in the development of the Oregon forest products industry. The series is also supported by the OSU College of Forestry and the Oregon Forest Resources Institute.

More information on the series is available at http://starkerlectures.forestry.oregonstate.edu

Story By: 

 Jessica Fitzmorris, OSU College of Forestry, 541-737-3161

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Fire in the urban fringe