Researchers found that thinning could boost water yield, but the results are not proportional. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.
Planning for the future of the nation’s water resources is more important now than ever before as severe drought grips the West, affecting heavily populated areas and critical agricultural regions. Forests generally yield huge quantities of water—much more than crops or grasslands—but also use a lot of water during the growing season, so some land managers wonder if forest thinning could boost water supplies to people and ecosystems in a changing climate.
U.S. Forest Service researchers from the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center and the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory tested this idea and found that the results were not so cut and dried. Their findings were recently published in a special issue* of the journal Hydrological Processes. Read more »
Ponderosa pines stand tall in front of Yosemite Falls in California. Photo by Kevin Potter, USFS.
It can reach heights of 200 feet and live 500 years, and occupies landscapes across the western United States. Some say its bark has an unforgettable smell resembling vanilla or even cinnamon, and this tree is one tough cookie. It grows in a variety of soils and climates and survives fires that consume other species. It is also an ecologically and economically valuable tree that provides food, habitat and ponderous (heavy) lumber.
It is the iconic ponderosa pine. But the world is changing, and ponderosa pine is vulnerable to climate shifts, high-intensity wildfires and bark beetles — as well as development that replaces trees. To keep the ponderosa pine standing tall, researchers are looking for answers in its genes. Read more »
U.S. Forest Service planning teams must complete rapid assessments of ecosystem conditions on national forests and the effects on those ecosystems (such as this one at Cedar Lake) from stressors, such as climate change. U.S. Forest Service photo
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
From South Carolina’s coastal plain to the North Carolina mountains to the tropics of Puerto Rico to the southern Sierra Nevada region of California, climate change is on the minds of forest planners.
That’s because U.S. Forest Service planning teams in these areas are among the first to revise their land and resource management plans under the 2012 Planning Rule. To help them in their planning, land managers from the Francis Marion, Nantahala, Pisgah, El Yunque, Inyo, Sequoia, and Sierra national forests will turn to a web-based tool known as the Template for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Management Options.
Forest Plans help guide the management of national forests and are typically revised every 10 to 15 years. The plans help ensure that national forests and grasslands continue to meet the requirements of the National Forest Management Act—for clean air and water, timber and other forest products, wildlife habitat, recreation and more. Read more »
Gray ghosts are a common sight in the southern Appalachians. A hemlock woolly adegid infestation has killed many hemlock trees in the Linville Gorge area of Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. (U.S. Forest Service/Steve Norman)
Residents of the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States have long enjoyed a rich culture of storytelling. Often rooted in a deep connection to the natural world, stories from Appalachian folklore serve to entertain as well as to educate; sometimes, important life lessons emerge, especially from tales of demise. A present-day ghost story from the southern Appalachians has captured the attention of U.S. Forest Service researchers who are using high-tech tools to follow the footprints of lost life.
The ghosts in this story are eastern and Carolina hemlock trees. Hemlocks provide valuable ecosystem services in Appalachian forests, including cover for wildlife and cooling shade along waterways. But they are being killed in increasing numbers by an exotic invasive insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid. Native to Asia, the hemlock woolly adelgid is transported through forests by animals, wind and, accidentally, by people. Often called “gray ghosts” because of their pale, skeleton-like appearance, the dead hemlocks are obvious across the mountain landscape. Using a forest monitoring tool known as ForWarn, scientists are able to see just how devastating the hemlock losses have become across the southern Appalachians, where the hemlock woolly adelgid thrives in the warmer temperatures. Here, the hemlock woolly adelgid is killing trees much more quickly than in the more northern areas of the hemlocks’ range, sometimes in as few as four years after infestation. Read more »
Drs. Rebecca Efroymson and Bill Hargrove held a recent science club meeting in Haw Creek Elementary School’s computer lab. (U.S. Forest Service/Stephanie Worley Firley)
When he was a child, Forest Service scientist Bill Hargrove burnt off his eyebrows making rocket fuel, blew up a sealed jar of cultured yeast and started a bathroom fire while doing sterile transfers for a carrot tissue culture. Fortunately, he survived his early scientific experiments and is now inspiring a new generation of young students.
Hargrove, a research ecologist with the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, and his wife, Rebecca Efroymson, are pioneering an extramural science club for fourth and fifth graders at Haw Creek Elementary School in Asheville, N.C. Each monthly club meeting features real-life scientists who lead lively discussions and activities about diverse scientific topics.
During the first club meeting last year, students looked at living creatures found in drops of pond water through a light microscope—Hargrove’s own childhood microscope. Read more »
New Zealand has one of the most well-developed forest biosecurity programs in the world. The logs pictured here at the Port of Tauranga were fumigated prior to export to minimize the chance of accidentally spreading forest pests. (U.S. Forest Service/Frank Koch)
Sometimes there is more to global trade than meets the eye. While consumers and economies may benefit from expanding market opportunities and a seemingly endless array of readily available goods, harmful pests could be lurking as people and products are transported between countries.
An international research network, including scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, has come together to share information about how exotic animals, diseases and plants can move and spread—and threaten agricultural and natural resources.
The International Pest Risk Mapping Workgroup consists of governmental and academic scientists from around the globe who study potential stowaway pests in order to assess the likelihood of their establishment in new locations and the impacts if and where they spread. Read more »