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UC Researchers Take A Look At The Ecological Impact Of Pot Farming

Jeff Chiu / File / AP

This Feb. 1, 2011 file photo shows medical marijuana clone plants at a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif.

Jeff Chiu / File / AP

Pot farming and the timber industry leave very different marks on California forests according to University of California researchers who want to know more about the ecological impact of marijuana grows.

"Forest fragmentation" describes how different land uses break up continuous stretches of forest into smaller pieces.

Take the timber industry and cannabis farming. UC Berkeley researcher Van Butsic looked at the impact of each activity on 1.5 million acres of forest in Humboldt County from 2000 to 2013.

The research found while timber had a greater overall impact on forest fragmentation, cannabis farming created more holes within a forested expanse.

Butsic says that's ecologically significant since forest fragmentation influences how nutrients cycle throughout the ecosystem.

And how wildlife moves, too.

"It impacts what habitat are available for different species. Some species like large continuous areas of forest and other species like to live on the edge of forest. And so more fragmented forest may be better habitat for them," Butsic said. 

Rules adopted Nov. 16 removed Proposition 64's one acre cap on outdoor commercial cannabis cultivation.

But counties and cities can set more restrictive limits.

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