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Scientists & Staff

Richard Birdsey

Program Manager
The Strategic Foresight Group
11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, Pennsylvania 19073
Phone: 610-557-4091

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Current Research

As manager of the Forest Service's Northern Global Change Research Program, I coordinate a national effort to identify forest management strategies to increase carbon sequestration, and help forests and forest managers adapt to a changing climate. I am the lead investigator on a grant from NASA to help develop decision-support for carbon management. I am a specialist in quantitative methods for large-scale inventory and monitoring programs, and have pioneered the development of methods to estimate national carbon budgets for forest lands from forest inventory data. Recently I have compiled and published estimates of historical and prospective North American forest carbon sources and sinks, and analyzed options for increasing the role of U.S. forests as carbon sinks.

Why This Research is Important

Forest landscapes are changing because of climate, land use, and other environmental changes. These changes affect forest ecosystems that people depend upon for clean air and water, forest products, biological diversity, and recreation. To sustain these ecosystem services, we need to (1) manage our forest resources to provide this array of ecosystem goods and services under increasing environmental stress and a changing climate; (2) determine the current and potential role of northern forests in mitigating climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; storing it in biomass, soils, and wood products; and using biomass as a substitute for fossil fuel; and (3) develop long-term management strategies that optimize the role of northern temperate forests in sequestering carbon while maintaining production of goods and services under increasing threats.


  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, B.S. Anthropology, 1971
  • State University of New York, M.S. World Forestry (Economics), 1975
  • State University of New York, Ph.D. Forest Management (Quantitative Methods), 1989

Professional Organizations

  • Society of American Foresters
  • Ecological Society of America
  • International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO)

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

Global Forests Sequester One-third of Annual Fossil Fuel Emissions, Much More Than Previously Thought (2011)
Forested land plays a much larger role in removing carbon from the atmosphere than was previously thought, according to Forest Service scientists working with an international team of scientists. One of the key findings in the study is that global forests have annually removed 2.4 billion tons of carbon (8.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere, about one-third of annual fossil fuel emissions for the period of 1990-2007.

How to Build a Better Map of Tree Biomass (2014)
A logical way to validate biomass maps derived from remotely sensed data is to validate them with independent ground inventory estimates, but integration of the two systems is not without challenges. Forest Service scientists compared maps derived from Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) to Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) estimates in the fragmented forests of Maryland, leading to recommendations about how to improve their agreement.

Past and Prospective Carbon Stocks Assessed in Forests of Northern Wisconsin (2014)
Forest Service scientists and cooperators assessed past and prospective carbon stocks for 4.5 million hectares (about 11 million acres) of forest land in northern Wisconsin and analyzed the effects of disturbance and management. Over the last decade, carbon stocks of northern Wisconsin forests have been increasing and they found that there is potential to increase stocking on the land by allowing more of the forested area to reach older age classes or by increasing growth rates through improving forest management.

Last updated on : 16-Nov-2015