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Reforestation Matters

Date: May 01, 2019

Yes, it’s a play on words. Forest Service scientists and other researchers are examining whether or not reforestation still matters (is important) to the mission of the Agency and the American public, and if so, what are the matters (subjects of concern)

The Forest Service brought together reforestation experts from across North America to discuss potential benefits of reforestation activities in the face of mounting challenges from invasive species, wildfires, diseases, and climate change. Six important questions emerged: what are the barriers to natural regeneration? When should land managers actively plant trees (or not) to ensure a heterogeneous landscape? What are the ecological and economic concerns when reforestation is delayed? How should managers employ traditional and novel silvicultural techniques in support of reforestation? How might land managers leverage reforestation to improve resilience of species affected by introduced pests? And, what are the potential carbon sequestration benefits of a robust reforestation program?

  • Reforestation is important to mitigate climate change, and attention to adaptation to future climates is crucial to increase resilience.
  • Reforestation on federally-managed lands can be critical to achieving mitigation objectives. We can use current and novel silviculture techniques to implement reforestation. But over-reliance on natural regeneration will fail to provide all desired results.
  • The growing frequency and size of mega-fires is increasing the need of reforestation, but revenue streams traditionally used are insufficient to meet management objectives.
  • Wise decision-making by land managers to target sites that will benefit most from reforestation is important at the landscape level for creating, maintaining, or enhancing ecological services.
  • Effective reforestation can also provide resilience in the face of invasive pests.
  • Not practicing reforestation in a timely manner can increase subsequent management costs, suffer opportunity costs from loss of functions, and reduce potential positive impacts, including carbon sequestration.
    Tree planting after a wildfire on the Boise National Forest
    Tree planting after a wildfire on the Boise National Forest (photo by Lisa Kennedy, Forest Service).








Non-RMRS Publications

Guldin JM (2019) Silvicultural options in forests of the southern United States under changing climatic conditions. New Forests 50: 71‒87.

Nave LE, Walters BF, Hofmeister KL, Perry CH, Mishra U, Domke GM, Swanston CW (2019) The role of reforestation in carbon sequestration. New Forests 50: 115‒137.

White AM, Long JW (2019) Understanding ecological contexts for active reforestation following wildfires. New Forests 50: 41‒56.

Zhang D (2019) Costs of delayed reforestation and failure to reforest. New Forests 50: 57‒70.

Featured Publications

Dumroese, Kasten ; Balloffet, Nicole ; Crockett, John W. ; Stanturf, John A. ; Nave, Lucas E. , 2019
Dey, Daniel C. ; Knapp, Benjamin O. ; Battaglia, Mike A. ; Deal, Robert L. ; Hart, Justin L. ; O'Hara, Kevin L. ; Schweitzer, Callie J. ; Schuler, Thomas M. , 2019

Principal Investigators: 
Forest Service Partners: 
Nicole Balloffet (Invited author) – National Forest System, Washington Office
John W. Crockett (Invited author) – National Forest System, Washington Office
Daniel C. Dey (Invited author) – Southern Research Station
James M. Guldin (Invited author) – Southern Research Station
John M. Stanturf (Co-principle investigator) – Southern Research Station (retired)
Angela M. White (Invited author) – Pacific Southwest Research Station
External Partners: 
Lucas E. Nave (Co-principle investigator) – University of Michigan, Biological Station
Daowei Zhang (Invited author) – Auburn University