A massive column of smoke rises from a forest fire. Today’s rapidly changing conditions present challenges for forest managers when determining what plant species to replant after a disturbance like a wildland fire. Photo credit: US Forest Service
Forests are changing in ways they’ve never experienced before because today’s growing conditions are different from anything in the past. The climate is changing at an unprecedented rate, exotic diseases and pests are present, and landscapes are fragmented by human activity often occurring at the same time and place.
The current drought in California serves as a reminder and example that forests of the 21st century may not resemble those from the 20th century. When replanting a forest after disturbances, does it make sense to try to reestablish what was there before? Or, should we find re-plant material that might be more appropriate to current and future conditions of a changing environment? Read more »
The Gulf Coast ecosystem is vital to our nation and our economy.
The Gulf Coast ecosystem is vital to our nation and our economy, providing valuable energy resources, abundant seafood, extraordinary recreational activities and a rich cultural heritage. This ecosystem was significantly injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history—and has also suffered from harm caused by hurricanes, subsidence and other human actions and naturally-occurring events.
With the historic settlement of the litigation with BP, there will be up to $16 billion available for ecosystem restoration in watersheds across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas through the RESTORE Act, the Natural Resource Damages Assessment process and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Read more »
Different watershed land uses – such as the Lake Michigan forests and recreational area pictured here – affect regional water quality in lakes, which researchers can estimate using satellite imagery. Photo credit: US Forest Service
The Great Lakes cover over 95,000 square miles and contain trillions of gallons of water. These vestiges of the last Ice Age define immense. But their greatness makes water quality monitoring difficult.
In 2010, Titus Seilheimer, a US Forest Service research ecologist at the time, led a project funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that parsed the vastness of the Great Lakes to estimate water quality in different basins. This information can identify which areas are likely to receive high nutrient inputs – which can cause harmful algae blooms and dead zones – and where resource managers should invest in restoration efforts. Read more »
The gopher tortoise is the keystone species of longleaf pine forests as its burrows provide shelter to 360 other species.
The gopher tortoise earned its name for good reason – because it likes to dig and spends much of its time underground. The gopher tortoise, the Southeast’s only land-dwelling tortoise, burrows in the sandy soils below longleaf pine forests where it can escape heat and danger.
Its burrows are popular. About 360 other species, from rattlesnakes to rabbits, toads, and northern bobwhite take advantage of the underground real estate provided by the tortoise, what biologists call a keystone species because other species depend on it. Read more »
Pablo Chacón, a Guatemalan farmer, takes notes at the CATIE dairy farm and research center in Turrialba, Costa Rica, where he is studying agroforestry on an FAS-funded scholarship.
Pablo Chacón, a young Guatemalan farmer who is studying agroforestry at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Turrialba, Costa Rica, can now show the people in his home community how livestock grazing and hardwood forests can co-exist and prosper. Earlier this month, he told me and other Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) visitors to CATIE that the education he gained from his FAS-funded scholarship to CATIE has equipped him to be a change maker.
“CATIE’s research in the tropics shows that degraded lands can be restored using combined forest and pastoral production systems,” Chacón said. “The benefits of trees in pastures are clear: The shade helps reduce stress in animals during the dry season, keeps moisture in the soil and retains the strength of pastures during the dry season.” Read more »
Wildlife cameras capture a young black bear enjoying new growth from a prescribed burn on the Pisgah National Forest. Photo credit: Lisa Jennings
It was my first prescribed burn. After weeks of training and months of anticipation, I was finally on the ground – drip torch in hand – ready to apply fire to restore the mixed pine-hardwood forests at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Pisgah National Forest.
Joining the U.S Forest Service only two months earlier, my knowledge of fire’s effect on plant and wildlife communities was limited. But as the coordinator for the Grandfather Restoration Project, part of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program, I had to quickly come up to speed with the on-the-ground reality of prescribed fire use. Read more »