RICHMOND — The Richmond Conservation Commission is sponsoring two talks on March 20, both focusing on environmental topics.

The first presentation, by Paul Ricard, forest health manager for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, will address changes in the composition of the state’s forests resulting from the death of thousands of oak trees. The second talk, presented by DEM Wildlife Outreach Coordinator Mary Grande, will explore the state’s diverse wildlife species and how best to manage wildlife habitat in a changing climate.

James Turek, who chairs the commission, said people could attend one or both talks. The first will be at 6:30 p.m. and the second at 7:30 p.m. at the Carolina fire station.

 

“The way we structured it was, the first hour, at 6:30, allows people, if they only want to go to one, to get out of there after the first one, because there’s going to be a Q and A and then a brief intermission before we kick into the second one,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re all out of there by 8:30.”

Turek said the commission had chosen to offer a forestry talk because of the impact that dead oaks, killed by two years of gypsy moth defoliation, have had on the Richmond area.

“We’ve had some significant changes in the forest in our community, so we’re trying to get a better understanding of why we’ve had this mortality, which had primarily been in the oaks — white oaks in particular — due to the gypsy moth infestation,” he said. “We’re also trying to get a handle on how things are changing with climate change and how climate change issues such as very high wind and potential drought or excessive storm events are changing the way these trees are able to handle those stress factors.”

Turek said that trees are now affected by many environmental stressors in addition to insect pests.

“What we’re seeing, of course, whether it’s in Richmond or Hopkinton or other parts of South County, is that we’re getting mortality due to infestation, we’re getting mortality due to blow-downs like white pine, we’re getting masts off trees at a greater rate now because of the fact that we’re getting these anomalous winds. It’s becoming almost a routine event having high wind conditions, and then we’re having the toppling, that often is associated with heavy rain events where you’ve got over-saturated ground and shallow roots are toppling over in a wind. We’re seeing all these changes that are occurring with climatic change factors,” he said.

Grande’s talk will focus on how Rhode Island’s wildlife populations are changing. Turek said one species that is increasingly observed is the elusive but highly adaptable bobcat.

“This seems to be a species that’s showing up  more regularly, or at least they’ve now got better documentation that the animal is more common that we had thought in South County,” he said.

“We’re seeing them quite commonly in Richmond now, so we are hoping that people wouldn’t be overly concerned about it, that they’d just understand that wildlife populations are changing with environmental conditions and land use conditions.”

The talks, presented under the umbrella title, “Our Changing Environment,” will take place on March 20 at the Richmond-Carolina Fire District Station, 208 Richmond Townhouse Road (Route 112). Both talks are free and open to the public, and light refreshments will be served. 

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