Our mission: Improve understanding of how people living in rural, interface, and urban landscapes influence – and are influenced by – the natural environment and ecology of the South.
As part of the Southern Research Station’s Forest Values, Uses, and Policies Science area, our unit provides the knowledge and tools needed by natural resource professionals, policymakers, planners, and citizens to manage effects on and optimize the benefits of human-forest interactions.
The South is one of the most rapidly growing and ethnically diverse regions of the United States. For example, the South grew by 14.3 million people to 114.6 million people between 2000 and 2010, more than any other region. The South also experienced a growth of 57 percent in its Hispanic population during this same time period, the largest increase of any region. As a result of these changes, there are critical information gaps about the effects of land-use change, climate change, and altered disturbances on human and natural communities, particularly from a multi-disciplinary view that incorporates both social and ecological aspects. Some specific questions that remain largely unanswered are:
- How do humans influence natural ecosystems in urban and urbanizing landscapes?
- How does urbanization affect human-derived benefits from forest ecosystems?
- What are the complex relationships between different social groups and natural resources?
- How do we provide and sustain outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities in the face of changes in society and natural environments?
These research areas provide a hierarchical framework for addressing the changes, challenges, trade-offs, and risks to forests and human communities across the rural to urban continuum in the South.
Primary beneficiaries of this research include federal, state, county and city natural resource managers; university researchers; community and regional planners; rural development specialists; local community leaders; and various user groups including watershed associations, national and local non-governmental organizations, and citizens.
Our science delivery center, Urban Forestry South, works directly with the Southern Group of State Foresters (SGSF) and their staff, natural resource professionals (i.e. urban forestry, arboriculture, planning, disaster management, etc.), schools, and major NGO and community partners in Region 8. It continues to support and develop the Urban Forests Strike Team program initiated by the SGSF, and has a coordinated university research effort to support technology, inventories, and promote the connection between human health and nature, and children and nature. Regarding the latter, the Center is involved with the Kids in the Woods environmental education programming for middle-school aged children and green schools efforts. The Center also cooperates with state emergency management agencies, the Southern Regional Extension Forestry program, other federal agencies, and SRS-4952 researchers.