News and Events
Check out this podcast from Backyard Ecology, with our very own Mac Callaham, Research Ecologist!
We don’t often think about what’s underneath our feet, but soils are essential for the food we eat, building materials for our homes, the clean water we drink, storing carbon and mitigating climate change, even the air we breathe.
Predicting fire behavior is complicated. Current modeling tools work to balance the interplay between many different factors including weather conditions and vegetation structure. Yet these tools are often underutilized because they require high-performance computing resources. Rodman Linn from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, with expertise from SRS researchers Scott Goodrick and Joe O’Brien and additional colleagues, developed a tool called QUIC-Fire that can rapidly predict complex fire behavior.
A new photo guide shows fuel loads in the Southern Appalachian mountains.
Fire is a complicated process that affects forests in diverse ways. Current methods for predicting fire effects on forests still largely rely on past observations rather than a deep understanding of how fire interacts with a forest environment. In order to more fully understand fire’s effect on an ecosystem, wildland fire must be viewed as a biophysical process – a process that directly links fire’s transfer of energy to impacts on organisms and the environment.
Amynthas agrestis is an Asian earthworm that has become increasingly abundant in North American forests. The earthworms consume massive quantities of leaf litter, disrupt established food webs, and outcompete native species. Ideas for control have been limited by the lack of information on their life history traits, such as optimal hatching temperature. With UGA graduate student Jamie Blackmon, SRS researchers Melanie Taylor and Mac Callaham sought to fill this knowledge gap.
In parts of the southeastern U.S., one unlikely forest type has great potential for extreme fire behavior: hardwood-cypress swamps. These shallow wetlands can work with their more frequently burned neighbors, pine flatwoods, to wreak havoc by easily igniting and sustaining tremendous wildfires, thus depleting carbon storage in these forests.
Shipping containers are stacked like Legos. From all over the world, they have arrived at the Garden City Terminal, at the Port of Savannah in Georgia. About a third of the plant species growing there are also from around the world – they are non-native. Some are new to Georgia and the U.S. altogether. That’s a remarkably high proportion of non-native species, according to a recent study led by USDA Forest Service research ecologist Rima Lucardi.
Land managers have a new tool in their firefighting arsenals that models forest fuels in three dimensions. These 3D fuel models developed by the USDA Forest Service have the potential to make firefighting and the management of controlled burns safer and less costly while helping to protect valuable natural resources.
Prescribed fires generate smoke, which can harm human health – especially in areas where humans and forests are close together.
“Weather conditions are critical for prescribed fire, especially the effects of wind and humidity on smoke plume formation,” says Yongqiang Liu, USDA Forest Service research meteorologist.
Demand for bioenergy is expected to grow – as much as 10 times larger than present. Woody crops such as poplar or loblolly pine have the potential to fuel this growth.
But where should such crops be planted? How to minimize transportation costs? Where are the opportunity zones? Where are the risks?
A definitive book about longleaf pine ecosystem restoration is now available.
Experts from the USDA Forest Service, Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, and many other organizations contributed to the book.
Imagine walking through a forest, with leaves crunching beneath your feet. Underneath those crunchy leaves is a complex ecological realm. “Soil is teeming with life,” says U.S. Forest Service research ecologist Mac Callaham. “Most people don’t think about it because they don’t see the soil fauna.”
If something looks like a forest, does it act like a forest? U.S. Forest Service research ecologist Mac Callaham, along with several colleagues, asked that question about bottomland hardwoods in west-central Mississippi.
When U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station research ecologist Mac Callaham and post-doctoral researcher David Coyle, D.B. Warnell School of Forest Resources, were teaching a class together at the University of Georgia, they decided to involve their students in writing a manuscript. The paper aimed to call attention to a subject that in recent years has received too little love from the scientific community: soil fauna and how various kinds of environmental disturbances affected soil invertebrates.
Dry weather – and huge wildfires – are common. “Climate change would modify fuel moisture and wildland fires dramatically across the United States,” says Yongqiang Liu. Liu is a U.S. Forest Service research meteorologist who recently investigated climate impacts on fuel moisture. His study was published in the journal Ecohydrology.
Flowering plants and pollinators depend on each other. It’s a global truism, and it’s true on a 440 acre blueberry farm in northern Florida.
Longleaf pine ecosystems are among the most threatened in the U.S., and managers across the southeast are prioritizing longleaf restoration. The conventional approach calls for removing hardwood trees such as oak.
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.
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.”
Findings from a study led by a U.S. Forest Service scientist suggest that more frequent use of prescribed fire will be needed to reach common management objectives for the hardwood forests in the southern Appalachian region.
Today finds U.S. Forest Service scientist John Stanturf in Portland, Oregon, sharing the “spotlight tool” — a framework he and international collaborators developed to assess forest restoration projects in relation to climate change adaptation and mitigation — with communicators from all over the world participating in a joint workshop of the UNECE-FAO and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).
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.
Though there are studies that evaluated the long-term establishment of loblolly pine stands using the fell-and-burn method, none have existed for shortleaf pine. Tom Waldrop, SRS Station team leader and research forester who collaborated on the fell-and-burn studies in the 1980s and later, and Lauren S. Pile, then a postdoctoral research fellow at Clemson University, set out to evaluate the success of the regeneration method for shortleaf by revisiting plots on study sites in the Andrew Pickens where it was used 34 years ago to establish mixed shortleaf pine-hardwood forests on stands formerly dominated by hardwoods.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more than 30 years, researchers have known that poor communities and people of color in the U.S. are more likely to be affected by environmental threats such as landfills and toxic waste sites. “Are these socially vulnerable communities also exposed to more smoke from wildfires and prescribed fires?” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Cassandra Johnson Gaither. Very few studies have examined the relationship between social vulnerability and exposure to wildfires or prescribed fires.
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.