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Chris Earle
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It's been a busy weekend at conifers.org. Check out greatly revised species accounts for the Sicilian fir, Abies nebrodensis; the Sakhalin fir, Abies sakhalinensis; the Guatemalan fir, Abies guatemalensis; and the balsam fir, Abies balsamea. I also got a new Russian paper that provides insights on Abies phylogeny using molecular data, but it'll take me a little while yet to fully understand that one. Anyway, here's link to get you started:
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I have decided to part with my cone collection. It's a lot of stuff and I just don't use it very much, so I want to find someone who's interested in it and willing to pay shipping on a pile of boxes that amount to about 50 pounds (23 kilos). There might also be issues with shipping if you are not in the USA, if you're not, please look into the applicable regulations for your country. You can find more info on the collection and photos of about 70 of the specimens at this link: https://flic.kr/s/aHskX1KRqp

Just let me know ASAP if you're interested.
Cone Collection
Cone Collection
flickr.com
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The standard work has just been released in a new edition. This time there is also an electronic access option (though at the same price).
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Winter is when I get most of my work done on the website. Currently my desktop runneth over. Hot items:
- New publications, molecular studies of ponderosa pine. It's starting to look as if ponderosa is basically a very complicated hybrid swarm. The publications don't say so, but it's a logical inference that this swarm has pretty much developed in post-glacial time, given that decades of searching have failed to turn up a Pleistocene refugium for the species. It's a uniquely American version of the same sort of orgiastic behavior Pinus shows in Mexico.
- Recent-ish publication, "New Trees", see http://www.kew.org/press/newtrees.html . This offering from Kew and the International Dendrological Society is basically devoted to trees that are "new" in the sense that the UK horticultural crowd is just now catching onto them; as far as conifers go, they are mostly species described decades, often many decades, ago. However the book is a wealth of relatively new information on each species, and includes horticultural info that won't be found in standard encyclopedic references (like Farjon, Eckenwalder, or Debreczy & Racz).

Also, I've lately been getting some lovely pen-and-ink drawings from Matt Strieby. You can see examples by going to the site (conifers.org) and searching for Matt's name. Some of the best examples are at Pinus lambertiana and Tsuga mertensiana. Gorgeous stuff.

And, I've been trying to sort out various long-standing taxonomic issues, truing up my online taxonomy with recent work in the encyclopedic references and, increasingly, molecular studies. I know a lot of traditional taxonomists tend to poo-poo the molecular work but, like all of science, when the evidence keeps piling up, it's time to review ways of thinking. I look for multiple molecular studies using a diversity of sources - for instance, the ponderosa work above includes different studies looking at plastid, nuclear, and chloroplast DNA, and the different lines of evidence lead to similar conclusions. Of course this doesn't always lead to something you can actually see in the field, but that's nothing new. There are lots of insects that look the same to everyone but not to each other - they know who to mate with and who not. A difference that you can't see can still have important implications for ecology, disease susceptibility, fecundity, lots of things.

As always, thanks to the many correspondents who send me great pieces of information or new leads on the developing science. My day job is currently focused on conservation biology of endangered species in California, and they aren't conifers, so I can use all the info I can get from other sources.
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More busy on the website, writing about King Billy pine (http://conifers.org/cu/Athrotaxis_selaginoides.php). I was there in Tasmania, checking out this species (and its 10 other endemic conifers), exactly one year ago. Lots of nice photos, but more, I really went down a wormhole as far as discovering literature on this species is concerned; lots of interesting ecology and human history, ranging from Tasmanian colonists' use of fire to the role of the Protestant Ascendancy in sending political prisoners to Australia. Great fun.
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More busy on the website. Only a year after getting back from Tasmania, I've revised the Athrotaxis and A. cupressoides pages (next up is A. selaginoides). Lots of photos (here's one of seed and pollen cones) and lots of ecological and historical info. Most of what's known, in fact; not much has been written on this high-subalpine species.
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Got  busy on the website this weekend. Made a concordance of my Taxonomy and Farjon's, and identified the points of inconsistency, and classified them as to whether they were OK (i.e. I knew why they were different) or not (i.e. I didn't know). The last group was only about 25 taxa, which isn't bad out of 700. Then I got going on cleaning it up, starting with the Chinese species of Tsuga. Just finished that. It was an interesting revision, with significant publications in both morphology and molecular work since I had last looked at it, and it actually seems to make some sense now. Nice when that happens. See the completed pages at http://conifers.org/pi/Tsuga.php
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Pines are often invasive species. Pinus radiata, Pinus patula and Pinus maritima, among others, were introduced to Maui through various past agroforestry ventures and experiments, and are now a serious problem in Haleakala National Park, where much of the terrain renders conventional control efforts dangerous or at least difficult. So the National Park Service is now proposing to spray these trees with the herbicide glyphosate (commonly called Roundup) from a helicopter: http://mauinow.com/2015/08/28/haleakala-national-park-to-begin-pine-control-project/
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Endangered Species Act: With 40 years of critical habitat designations in place, you would hope that areas within designated critical habitat are at least a bit less likely to be developed than areas not within critical habitat. You would be mistaken.

http://community.bowdoin.edu/news/2015/08/bowdoin-economist-assesses-impact-of-the-endangered-species-act/
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Two interesting articles bearing on climate change and western US forests. This one finds that there is NOT a relationship between increases in stand mortality and increases in area burned in the western US: http://wildfiretoday.com/documents/Hart_burned_area.pdf

And this one finds that the much-hyped phenomenon of "elevation dependent warming" in the mountains of the western US is actually an artifact of data collection, and that the high country is not warming any more or any faster than the low elevations: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL062803/full
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