Leadership Corner

Forest Service science and technology goes around the world

October 30th, 2018 at 1:00PM

A photo of Carlos Rodriguez-Franco, Deputy Chief, Research and Development
Carlos Rodriguez-Franco, Deputy Chief, Research and Development

The factors affecting the health and resiliency of forests do not respect international boundaries. For example, invasive pests and plants, fire, and climate change all impact many other countries as well as the United States. By sharing information across scientific disciplines and jurisdictional boundaries, the Forest Service can better anticipate threats and develop solutions with international partners. The exchange of knowledge and technology helps the entire global natural resource community make better management decisions to care for all lands and deliver sustainable benefits to people worldwide.

Many foreign countries directly seek out Forest Service scientists for their knowledge and experience. To further build capacity to restore and sustain healthy forests, Forest Service scientists use traditional and innovative channels to exchange knowledge, technologies, and expertise. By publishing scientific papers, speaking at international conferences, collaborating on international research, and participating in initiatives sponsored by other organizations, Forest Service researchers work at the forefront of their respective scientific fields to promote healthy forests at home and around the world.

For example, training young scientists in workshops coordinated by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations builds capacity that helps developing countries sustain and restore their forests. Rebuilding degraded soils, serving as carbon sinks to mitigate the effect of climate change, providing habitat for wildlife, and sustainably harvesting wood are some of the benefits gained as a result of Forest Service Research and Development investment.

International illegal logging costs governments and the private sector $10 to $15 billion in losses. Up to 10 percent of U.S. imported wood products are derived from illegally logged trees. Visually indistinguishable from the white oak species of Europe and North America, Mongolian oak is often harvested illegally in the Russian Far East. Forest Service scientists work with U.S. and international partners to identify DNA markers that determine the continental origin of white oak wood products. These markers enable importers to distinguish the origin of white oak and avoid illegally harvested wood.

The Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program focuses on tropical wetlands and their role in climate change. The program provides information on and insight into environmental trends and offers solutions to specific problems, such as the deforestation of mangrove forests.

The Forest Inventory and Analysis program is one of the Forest Service’s biggest success stories in delivering knowledge globally. Countries around the world now have much more detailed inventories of their own forests by using FIA tools and techniques. Among other benefits, these inventories allow them to do a much better job of carbon monitoring, which informs global estimates.

The field of urban forestry has also gone global. The iTree software developed by Forest Service researchers is now used in cities around the world to assess the value of a city’s trees and aid managers in decisions about tree planting and management.

Through their ongoing work and partnerships, Forest Service scientists promote future collaboration and positive diplomatic relations with countries around the world.