Center For Forest Disturbance Science (SRS RWU 4156)

The Center for Forest Disturbance Science is a research project of the US Forest Service Southern Research Station focused on the study of disturbance processes across scales and their risk of occurrence in order to develop innovative management strategies for reducing vulnerability of ecosystems to degradation.

News Archive

Grant to Clemson University Supports CAFMS Outreach

CAFMs promotes communication among forest managers and scientists about using prescribed fire as a management tool in the Appalachian region that stretches from Pennsylvania to Alabama. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Although fires have roared through the Appalachian Mountains devouring thousands of acres since October, a Clemson University professor wants people to understand not all fires are bad.

Rob Baldwin, a forestry and environmental conservation professor, has received a three-year grant for $216,000 from the U.S. Forest Services to develop outreach activities for the Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers and Scientists (CAFMS).

Read the full article →


Into the Rhizosphere: Soil Fungi and Carbon Dynamics

Many tree species rely on mycorrhizal fungi to help them get water and nutrients. The relationship between trees and fungi also affects carbon dynamics in the soil. Photo by Melanie Taylor, U.S. Forest Service.

Underneath the Earth’s surface, water, nutrients, and chemical signals are shuttled through a sprawling network between tree roots and soil fungi. “Many forest trees depend on their associated soil fungi for nutrients, as the fungi are better at absorbing nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients,” says U.S. Forest Service ecologist Melanie Taylor. “The trees return the favor by sharing their sugars with the fungi.”

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Earthworms, Millipedes and Soil Carbon in the Eastern U.S.

Scientists look for earthworms, millipedes, and other soil macroinvertebrates in the thick layer of partially decomposed leaf litter at the soil surface. The photo was taken in the Bartlett Experimental Forest, New Hampshire, where no invasive earthworms were found. Photo by Evelyn Wenk, U.S. Forest Service.

Ubiquitous in the southeastern U.S., native earthworms are absent from the northern part of the country. It wasn’t always so, but tens of thousands of years ago glaciers crept across the land, and earthworms below them froze to death. Because earthworms are slow travelers, they have not naturally recolonized the areas where glaciers were present.

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The Guide to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems

Prescribed burning is FIRE “applied in a skillful manner, under exacting weather conditions, in a definite place, to achieve specific results.”

Printed on the inside cover of the Introduction to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems, the sentence sets the tone for the revised guide developed by U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists Tom Waldrop and Scott Goodrick and published by SRS in 2012.

Read the full article →

June 23, 2016 on CompassLive

Studying Woody Biomass for Energy Across the U.S.

Non-traditional equipment is tested for harvesting small trees as an energy crop. The red attachment is a sheer felling head, and allows the skidsteer to accumulate several small stems at a time. Photo by Dana Mitchell, U.S. Forest Service.

Five U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists – John Stanturf, Emile Gardiner, Leslie Groom, Dana Mitchell and James Perdue – recently contributed to four review articles that were part of a special issue of the journal BioEnergy Research. SRS researchers collaborated on the journal articles with scientists and engineers from a number of universities and other agencies, including the Forest Service Northern Research Station, Pacific Northwest Research Station, and Forest Products Laboratory, as well as the USDA Agricultural Research Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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June 23, 2016 on CompassLive

The Future of Fire in the South

Prescribed fire in Coastal Plain flatwoods. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

In the U.S., most of the focus is on the catastrophic fires that regularly sweep across the western states, but wildfires actually occur more frequently in the Southeast, where rapid vegetation growth and fuel accumulation combine with frequent ignitions from lightning and humans. The South leads the nation in annual occurrences of wildfire, averaging approximately 45,000 wildfires per year. Continued population growth in the South increases the potential threat that wildfires pose to life and property. In addition, forestry and forestry related-industry represent a significant portion of the region’s economy, making each wildfire a potential loss to a local economy.

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April 14, 2016 on CompassLive

21st Century Fire Ecology in the South

The infrared thermography platform developed by Forest Service researchers consists of a thermal imagery system combined with a pan-tilt system that allows high resolution images to be taken from directly over study plots. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

U.S. Forest Service researchers are using an array of high technologies — high resolution infrared thermography, LiDAR, and photogrammetry — to reach a new level of understanding of the interactions among fuels, fire, and plant diversity that underlie the successful use of prescribed fire in longleaf pine ecosystems.

Read the full article here.

March 1, 2016 on CompassLive

Faces of Innovation: Dexter Strother

Dexter Strother digging a fire line. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Dexter Strother is an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station's (SRS) Center for Forest Disturbance Science located in Athens, Georgia. Dexter is a young man on a mission who has accomplished a lot in his short career. He has worked for the Forest Service since 2007 and although it is not the career path he initially chose, things have worked out better than he ever thought possible.

Read the full article here.

January 27, 2016 on CompassLive


Forest Landscape Restoration Key for Addressing Climate Change

Forest Service scientist sharing best practice in forest landscape restoration at the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris. Photo by Gerda Wolfrum.

On November 30 through December 11, delegates from across the world converged on the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Le Bourget, a suburb of Paris, with the goal of coming up with the universal agreement on addressing climate change announced this weekend. Forest conservation and restoration will definitely play a part in the strategies developed from the agreement.

Read the full article here.

December 15, 2015 on CompassLive

Guide to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems

Guide to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems

Prescribed burning is FIRE "applied in a skillful manner, under exacting weather conditions, in a definite place, to achieve specific results."

Printed on the inside cover of the Introduction to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystemsthe sentence sets the tone for the revised guide developed by U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientistsTom Waldrop and Scott Goodrick.

Read the full article here.

September 23, 2015 on CompassLive

Ebola Virus Disease in Liberia

Many households in rural Liberia are more than 80 minutes from a healthcare facility. Travel — mostly by foot, bicycle, motorbike, bush taxi, truck, or some combination – is further limited by impassable roads. Only 7 percent of the 66,000 miles of roads in Liberia are paved. Photo by USAID.

A newly published research study by U.S. Forest Service researchers demonstrates that the social vulnerability indices used in climate change and natural hazards research can also be used in other contexts such as disease outbreaks.

Authors of the article include Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) researchers John StanturfScott Goodrick,Mel Warren, and Christie Stegall, and Susan Charnley from the Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Read the full article here.

September 15, 2015 on CompassLive

Restoring Shortleaf Pine in the Southern Appalachians

Shortleaf pine restoration site at Sandy Mush Game Land in western North Carolina. Photo by Steve Norman.

On July 29-30, the Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers and Scientists (CAFMS) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) hosted a workshop in Asheville, North Carolina, to discuss threats, barriers, and successes in relation to the restoration of shortleaf pine in the southern Appalachians. Over 80 participants from national forests and parks, state agencies, and nongovernmental organizations from across the southern Appalachian region attended.

Read the full article here.

August 19, 2015 on CompassLive

Burning Caicos Pine Yards

U.S. Forest Service researcher Joe O’Brien helped set prescribed fire in pine rocklands on the island of Caicos in May. Photo courtesy of TCI Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs.

This spring found U.S. Forest Service scientist Joe O’Brien helping to set a prescribed fire in the Turks and Caicos, a small Caribbean island chain that’s a British Overseas Territory. O’Brien, research ecologist with the Forest Service Southern Research Station Center for Forest Disturbance Science, was there to help save a unique rockland pine habitat from disappearing.

Read the full article here.

June 30, 2015 on CompassLive

“Inspire, Support, and Mobilize Forest and Landscape Restoration”

John Stanturf made a presentation at the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) and attended the Bonn Challenge Roundtable (March 18-21). John is participating in a collaborative project entitled “Inspire, Support, and Mobilize Forest and Landscape Restoration” between the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), funded by the German Ministry of Environment (BMU). The group of IUFRO scientists has developed a framework to demonstrate how FLR can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. The scientists assembled a list of mitigation and adaptation activities relevant to FLR and evaluated 15 case studies of forest restoration from around the world for their actual or potential contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley was developed as the USA Case Study. Deputy Chief NFS Leslie Weldon and Chris French, Deputy Director Forest Management, NFS were at the GPFLR and Roundtable as the official US delegation.

May 11, 2015

Fighting Earthworm Invasions with Fire

Prescribed fire could help control invasive earthworms. Photo by U.S. Forest Service, courtesy of Bugwood.org.

“Earthworms can fundamentally change the soils they inhabit,” says U.S. Forest Service research ecologist Mac Callaham. “They can have such significant effects that they’re often called ecosystem engineers.” The Asian jumping worm (Amynthas agrestis) is one such earthworm. Like many worms, it eats the leaves, twigs, needles, and bark that fall to the forest floor. However, the nonnative Asian jumping worm is unusually voracious and highly invasive in the U.S.

Read the full article here.

April 21, 2015 on CompassLive

Crash and Burn: How Tornado Damage Affects Fire Behavior

Aerial view of simulated tornado damage at the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge near Round Oak, Georgia. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Tornadoes and fires are powerful natural disturbances that can kill trees and cause long lasting changes in community composition. One of the most obvious interactions between wind damage and fire is that fallen trees become fuel, and can increase the likelihood or intensity of fire. “The impacts of simultaneous wind and fire disturbances are poorly understood,” says Joseph O’Brien, a research ecologist at the Southern Research Station Center for Forest Disturbance Science. O’Brien and his colleagues recently studied interactions between wind damage and fire behavior. The study was led by Jeffery Cannon of the University of Georgia, and was recently published in Forest Ecology and Management.

Read the full article here.

December 11, 2014 on CompassLive

Guide to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems

Photo of prescribed fire

Prescribed burning is FIRE “applied in a skillful manner, under exacting weather conditions, in a definite place, to achieve specific results.”

Printed on the inside cover of the Introduction to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems, the sentence above sets the tone for the revised guide developed by Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists Tom Waldrop and Scott Goodrick and published last year.

Read the full article here.

September 11, 2014 on CompassLive

Interrupting an Invasional Meltdown

Southeastern forest infested with Chinese privet. Photo by David Moorhead, courtesy of bugwood.org.

Earthworms have been described as “ecosystem engineers” because they can transform soil environments in ways – physical, chemical, and biological – that in turn lead to aboveground ecological changes. Most of the 8,000 species of the world’s earthworms stay in areas where they evolved, some occupying very narrow niches, but about 120 “cosmopolitan” or “peregrine” species have spread throughout the world, some invading and displacing native species.

Read the full article here.

July 17, 2014 on CompassLive

Fires and Water: Predicting Future Wildfires in a Changing Climate

The Natural Inquirer

Drs. John Stanturf and Scott Goodrick provided the segment, “Fire and Water: Predicting Future Wildfires in a Changing Climate,” in the newest Natural Inquirer, Natural IQ. The Natural Inquirer is a middle school science education journal! Scientists report their research in journals, which enable scientists to share information with one another. This journal, The Natural Inquirer, was created so that scientists can share their research with middle school students. Each article tells about scientific research conducted by scientists in the USDA Forest Service.

Read the full article here.

March 17, 2014 by Shela Mou

Infrared Thermography Data Collection of Fire Behavior




March 17, 2014 by Shela Mou

Center for Forest Disturbance Science (SRS RWU 4156)

University of Georgia
Forestry Sciences Laboratory
320 Green Street
Athens, GA 30602

Clemson University
233 Lehotsky Hall
Clemson, SC 29634