Welcome to the Southern Institute of Forest Ecosystems Biology Team

USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station (Part of) Research Work Unit SRS-4160

Chris Maier
Team Leader
Research Triangle Park, NC

The Southern Institute of Forest Ecosystem Biology (SIFEB) studies both above- and below-ground processes in forest trees and ecosystems and relates these processes to overall stand productivity. An analytical service lab is run out of RTP. Through these combined efforts we are studying multiple aspects of southern forest productivity, sustainability and biodiversity including forest establishment, growth and development.

Important research questions include:

  • What are the environmental and physiological controls to forest productivity?
  • What are the long term impacts of forest management on forest sustainability?
  • How do environment, phenology, and genotype impact the portioning of C among tree organs and physiological processes?
  • Can forest carbon sequestration be increased via forest management?
  • Can trees be genetically seletcted for, or can specific traits be combined, resulting in trees withj known physiological and morphological attributes that perform in a consistent manner when outplanted?
  • Can research tools be developed to make the above research more efficient and thus more effective?

Important studies include:

  • The Southeast Tree Research and Education Sites (SETRES) in Scotland County, NC.
  • The Cross Carbon Site located in Cross, SC.
  • The Long Term Soil Productivity (LTSP) installation in the Croatan National Forest, NC.
  • The Long-Term Soil Productivity (LTSP) network is the world’s largest coordinated research effort examining how soil compaction and organic matter losses impact net primary productivity. The study was implemented nation wide and in Canada covering a wide range of climatic regimes, site types, edaphic limitations, and tree species. This provides a unique opportunity to improve our understanding of the complex relationships between soil conditions and productivity, and to provide specific management recommendations for different forest types. Three LTSP installations are located on the Croatan National Forest. The Croatan LTSP installations were established in 1992 on soils in the Goldsboro and Lynchburg series. These sites are particularly important in the LTSP network because these warmer sites progress through succession more quickly than those in cooler and drier climates. While the study is still young, statistically significant trends continue to emerge and have been presented and published in various scientific outlets. Additional information on the Croatan LTSP installations can be found in the following link. LTSP

  • A major collaborative effort with Region 8 of the National Forests to quantify the impacts of longleaf pine restoration in carbon sequestration. An important part of theis research takes place at the Harrison Experimental Forest.
  • Extensive sampling being conducted across the South to elucidate the impact of forestry and forest productivity on below-ground C sequestration.
  • A major collaborative effort on forest responses to elevated atmospheric CO2 and the use of ground penetrating radar to quantify root biomass, and the use of digital photography to quantify tree biomass and crown characteristics.

Working partnerships

We stress working closely and dove-tailing our skills with University and Industry partners. Knowledge gained is incorporated into models useful for regional global change assessments as well as forest management.