My current research involves the following, self-described studies: The North American Long-Term Productivity Study which uses a common experimental design in major forest types across North America. This study involves intensive pre- and post-harvest sampling and a commitment to ensure long-term data collection set this study apart from many local/regional studies. I have the only three installations of the LTSP study in RMRS, many of which are approaching 20 years old. The experimental design is a 3x3 factorial of soil compaction and organic matter removal and I would welcome other researchers to use these plots.
Below ground processes: Organic matter is the key to site productivity because of its roles in nutrient cycling, soil water availability, disease incidence or preventation, and aggregate stability. Organic matter decomposition is controlled by the same soil factors that affect plant growth - waterm, nutrients, pH, and temperature. A number of studies have shown a strong relationship between organic matter decomposition rates and site productivity. Forest management proctices can greatly impact organic matter decomposition, which could affect tree growth and site productivity. Consequently, organic matter decomposition is being used as an index of forest management effects (both positive and negative) in long-term soil productivity studies being conducted in various parts of North America and Canada. In addition, projected climate change scenarios would also have a pronounced effect on soil organic matter decomposition rates. I use standard wood stakes (P. taeda and P. tremuloides) to determine how management, (site preparation, fire fertilization, etc.), temperature, and moisture may impact below ground processes (organic matter decomposition) in many different soil types. I have a worldwide network of sites in various ecosystems. Ancillary studies on these sites include the importance of ants and termites and how they redistribute OM, C, N, and other nutrients above- and below-ground.
Soil Disturbance Monitoring: In cooperation with several other Research Stations, National Forest Systems, industry, and B.c. Ministry of Forest Soil Scientists I developed a Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring Protocol that is being used across the U.S. and in other countries on forested landscapes. The new protocol defines consistent terminology, is statistically valid, and provides a common method for describing soil disturbance from management activities.
Environmental consequences of biomass utilization and biochar additions: We are determining the feasibility of using in-woods fast pyrolysis to turn excess forest biomass into bio-oil, syn-gas, and biochar. Biochar can be applied to forest sites to improve water holding capacity and reducing nutrient leaching through the mineral soil profile. My work also evlaauates biochar-coated seed, pelleted biochar, and methods of applying char to forest sites.
My research interests center around maintaining soil productivity during and after land management activities and include the following: carbon sequestration, harvest methods, site preparation, and fire impacts on soil chemical, biological, and physical properties. I also study biochar impacts, biomass utilization, nutrient cycling, long-term productivity, organic matter, and how temperature and moisture regulate decomposition processes.
Biochar spreader: In partnership with the Missoula Technology Development Center (Keith Windell) and Dr. Nate Anderson (RMRS, Missoula) we have developed a biochar spreader to easily distribute biochar on forest sites. See the spreader in action at this link:
Past research has focused on long-term soil productivity, maintenance of surface organic matter, and ensuring healthy ecosystems that are resilient to fire, insects, and disease.
eUnderstanding the linkages between harvesting, soil quality, organic matter, and decomposition are important for knowing what management options are possible for different ecosystems. Improving stand resilitency to fire, insects, disease, and drought will help maintain soil and site productivity as climate changes.