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Forest Disturbance Processes

Monitoring and Assessment of Forest Health

How are the nation’s forests doing? The answer to that question is more important than ever in the face of multiple invasive pests which are adding to traditional disturbances of fire, wind, and timber harvest.. Northern Research Station researchers are developing tools to provide more reliable and more consistent answers to questions about forest conditions and the effects of management practices, pests, and changing climate. We are developing techniques to monitor forest ecosystems more closely using scientifically credible methods. We are tracking forest conditions in the Northeast and Midwest through the nationally consistent Forest Inventory and Analysis program. These tools will help federal, state, tribal, and private land managers collect and analyze data that assists their efforts to ensure the sustainability of forests.

Selected Research Studies

photo:] Ice storms are a fact of life for northern forestsTree recovery from ice-storm injury
Although ice storms occur throughout much of the northeastern, mid-atlantic, and north central US, the recovery of trees that survive initial breakage had not been documented. A regional ice storm in 1998 in northern New York and New England provided an opportunity to document that recovery.

 

[photo:] Ground estimates of insect defoliation are scaled-up to regional scales using multiple remote sensing platforms, including aerial photography, Hyperion, Landsat ETM+, and MODIS.Effects of Insect Defoliation on Regional Carbon Dynamics of Forests
On an annual basis, insects severely defoliate more than 20 million acres of forested land in the conterminous United States, affecting a larger area and incurring higher economic costs than any other disturbance.  However, the long-term costs and ecosystem consequences of insect outbreaks on forest health and productivity are difficult to quantify at the regional scale because of the variety of pests involved, differences in forest types affected, and varying spatial scale and intensity of the impacts.  In particular, the effect of insect activity on carbon cycling and sequestration at the annual and decadal scale is poorly characterized.  

 

[photo:] Boardwalk leading to and surrounding SPRUCE experiment site on Marcell Experimental Forest.The Spruce-Peatland Response Under Climate and Environmental Change (SPRUCE) Experiment
Through collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Lab, a large chamber experiment is being initiated to test the effects of increased soil and air temperature and elevated carbon dioxide levels on northern peatland ecosystems.  The experiment will provide a platform for testing mechanisms controlling vulnerability of wetland ecosystems to important climate change variables. 

 

[photo:] Landscape Diversity, Vegetation types, National Wildlife Federation, GLA websiteEffects of forest composition on Northern Goshawk nest occurrence and productivity
The Northern Goshawk is a forest raptor found at low densities throughout northern hardwood forests of the Great Lakes region, and is a species of management concern for the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF), Wisconsin.  The species has a circumboreal distribution and appears to be quite flexible in its nesting requirements and prey base, which limits the applicability of literature on nesting and foraging requirements from outside of the Great Lakes region.  Therefore, there is a need for local information on these aspects of Northern Goshawk biology to inform land managers of the most effective means to conserve the species. 

 

[photo:] Tower used in fire research at Silas Little Experimental ForestFire and Fuels Research at the Silas Little Experimental Forest
The Silas Little Experimental Forest was reinstated using National Fire Plan funding in 2003 to conduct multi-disciplinary fire and atmospheric science research to provide fire and forest managers with better tools for predicting fire danger, fire risk, air quality, and ecosystem functioning under changing environmental conditions. 

 

PhotoChequamegon Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (CHEAS)
As part of the cooperative Chequamegon Ecosystem Atmosphere Study (ChEAS), NRS scientists have been studying the energy, water vapor and CO2 exchange between forest ecosystems and the atmosphere to understand the dynamics of forest productivity.

 

PhotoNorthern Forest Monitoring
The NRS Northern Forest Monitoring Program develops leading edge forest ecosystem monitoring methods and tools to help FIA and other organizations monitor forests, resulting in compatible results across the landscape.


 

PhotoForest Inventory & Analysis
Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) collects, analyzes, and reports information on the status and trends of America's forests: how much forest exists, where it exists, who owns it, and how it is changing.

 

Last Modified: 07/01/2013

About this Research :
Disturbance Science Topics
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LANDIS - LANDIS is designed to model forest succession, disturbance (including fire, wind, harvesting, insects, global change), and seed dispersal across large (>1 million ha) landscapes. LANDIS represents landscapes as a grid of cells and tracks age cohorts of each species (presence/absence or biomass) rather than individual trees. LANDIS simulates distinct ecological processes, allowing complex interactions to play out as emergent properties of the simulation.