Research Roundup

Overviews of the climate change work happening at Forest Service research stations.
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Integrating Landscape-scale Forest Measurements with Remote Sensing and Ecosystem Models to Improve Carbon Management Decisions 
Northern Research Station
Rocky Mountain Research Station
Southern Research Station

Managing forests to increase carbon stocks and reduce emissions requires knowledge of how management practices and natural disturbances affect carbon pools over time, and cost-effective techniques for monitoring and reporting.

Contact: Richard Birdsey
Estimating fine root biomass with DNA fingerprints
Northern Research Station

Young communities of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) have been grown under elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide and elevated ozone at the Aspen FACE site, Harshaw, WI. We are using microsatellite markers to generate distinct DNA fingerprints for each of the five-aspen clones. These DNA fingerprints will be used to quantify fine-root biomass, in particular to monitor changes that occur when trees are exposed to atmospheric pollutants.

Contact: Paula Marquardt
Forest Carbon Models and Budgets
Northern Research Station

There is increasing interest in accurate estimates of national, regional, state, and local carbon fluxes, and identification of the causes of land / atmosphere / ocean exchange of carbon. Because forests store large quantities of carbon and these stocks are affected by many factors, accurate monitoring of forest carbon stocks and fluxes is a critical component of strategies to manage greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration.

Contact: Richard Birdsey
Impacts of Disturbances and Climate on Carbon Sequestration and Biofuels
Northern Research Station

Currently, U.S. forests and forest products offset about 20% of the nation's fossil fuel emissions. However, recent findings cast doubt on the sustainability of this offset. First, the strength of the U.S. forest carbon offset may be weakening due to forest ageing, climate variability, and increasing natural disturbances. Second, climate change is expected to further increase frequencies of insect outbreaks and wildfire, and alter species composition in forest ecosystems, consequently influencing forest carbon pools in a significant way. These current and projected forest carbon cycle dynamics need to be considered in strategic forest planning and management decisions in coming decades if the nation's forests are to provide stable or even increasing ecosystem services.

Contact: Yude Pan
Foliar biochemical indicators of environmental change and their relationship with site productivity
Northern Research Station

Methods are needed to assess the positive or negative impact of environmental pollution on forest productivity in an asymptomatic forest stand. A goal of several research groups in the Northern Research Station (NRS) is to develop a set of physiological and biochemical markers that can assess the early onset of stress in forests due to environmental factors, before injury is visible.

Contact: Rakesh Minocha
Forest Management for an Uncertain Climate Future: Tools and Training
Northern Research Station

Land managers need specific information, strategies, and tools to address the unique challenges of managing forests under uncertain and changing climate and ecosystem response. Sustainable forest management is critical for both the adaptation of forests to changing climatic conditions as well as mitigation of increased levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. The uncertainty of future climatic conditions necessitates adaptive techniques and strategies that provide flexibility and enhance ecosystem resistance and resilience. This project laid the foundation for what is now the Climate Change Response Framework, in addition to several other projects.

Contact: Chris Swanston
Enhanced Adaptation to Climate Change of Conifer Species
Northern Research Station

The success of forest regeneration programs depends upon the development of adaptation strategies for ecosystem sustainability under changing climates. There is a need to identify tree species and seed sources with enhanced adaptation to climate change pressures to ensure biologically and economically sustainable reforestation, afforestation, and gene conservation.

Contact: Ronald Zalesny
The Delaware River Basin: Collaborative Environmental Research and Monitoring Initiative (CEMRI)
Northern Research Station

In 1998 the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Park Service formed the Collaborative Environmental Monitoring and Research Initiative (CEMRI) to test strategies for integrated environmental monitoring among the agencies. The CEMRI project illustrates a powerful approach for tracking of environmental conditions, development of models for predicting responses of forest and aquatic processes to perturbations, estimation of future forest conditions, and identification of threats to watershed health and forest sustainability.

Contact: Richard Birdsey
Climate Change and Yellow-Cedar Decline
Northern Research Station
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Yellow-cedar is an ecologically, economically, and culturally important tree species that has experienced dramatic mortality in Alaska and nearby British Columbia for about 100 years. The extensive mortality, referred to as yellow-cedar decline, has now been documented on over 200,000 hectares and is not associated with any biotic factor (insect or disease) as a causal agent of decline. We are testing the hypothesis that reduced snowpack and associated increased amounts of soil freezing are resulting in increased root freezing injury and decline among yellow-cedar trees.

Contact: Paul Schaberg
Climatic Indicators of Forest Health 
Northern Research Station

Managers often need frequent, updated assessments of current and developing conditions on which to base management decisions and respond to public concerns. No methodology has been developed to indicate when a forest population is at risk to specific local and regional climate and air pollution stressors. This study resulted in an on-line information system featuring data on the relationships among various regional and global climate forcing factors and the health of forests in the north central and northeastern US, as measured by forest dieback.

Contact: Warren Heilman

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