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Northern Research Station
11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
(610) 557-4132 TTY/TDD

Sustaining Forests

Conserve and Enhance Wildlife and Fish

Animals inhabiting our forests, including the waters flowing over it and the air above it, are important to a large segments of society. Some come to view the animals and birds, others to hunt or fish. Some are content just to know that these creatures exist in the wild in viable numbers. Several Federal laws such as the National Forest Management Act and Endangered Species Act mandate viable wildlife populations. Recent research has demonstrated the importance of factors at multiple spatial scales on the viability of wildlife populations. For example, the vegetative composition and structure of a forest stand affects the abundance of birds breeding there, but the reproductive success of individuals may be affected by factors ranging from a nest site microhabitat to a landscape or region. Our scientists have also studied the ability of hardwood forests to regenerate when white-tailed deer populations are excessive. The NRS has one unit dedicated to wildlife and fish research and scientists in several other units who study wildlife as part of their forest ecosystem management research.

Northeastern and Midwestern forests are home to a wide variety of animal species. Some of these have exacting requirements for maintaining sustainable populations (Kirtland’s warbler for example); other species are quite adaptable and can live in many environments, even urban forests (think racoons and coyotes). Because much of the forested lands in the NRS region are privately owned and managed, NRS scientists focus much of their research on wildlife living in managed forests. Species studied include early-succession shrubland birds in old fields and powerline rights-of-way, neotropical migrants and songbirds; as well as terrestrial salamanders, fish, bats, and butterflies.

Research Studies

[photo:] Species viability graph.Population and Genetic Modeling Methods for Assessing Species Viability and Evaluating Conservation Strategies
Knowledge of wildlife species habitat or resource needs is a basic requirement for wildlife management.  The Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) has been on the United States Endangered Species List since 1967.  Knowledge of how landscape and forest management affect forest wildlife, like the Indiana bat, will allow resource managers to make more informed management decisions that will aid in the recovery of species.  

 

[photo:] golden cheeked warbler.  Photo from US FWS.Habitat and Resource Selection by Wildlife Species of Conservation Concern
Knowledge of wildlife species habitat or resource needs is a basic requirement for wildlife management.  The Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) has been on the United States Endangered Species List since 1967.  Knowledge of how landscape and forest management affect forest wildlife, like the Indiana bat, will allow resource managers to make more informed management decisions that will aid in the recovery of species.  

 

[photo:] A managed savanna site in the Missouri OzarksEffects of savanna and woodland restoration on bats and birds in the central hardwood region
There is great interest in restoring savanna and woodlands because of their former abundance on the landscape and high floristic diversity.  However, there is not good knowledge of the effects of restoration on wildlife or of potential conflicts with management for forest species of conservation concern.  

 

[photo:] Landscape Diversity, Vegetation types, National Wildlife Federation, GLA websiteConserving Wildlife in Managed Forests
Public land managers are mandated to sustain viable populations of all species on their lands, which requires an understanding how wildlife populations respond to forest management practices. Our research focuses on forest birds, as populations of many species of eastern deciduous forests are declining across their range, raising concerns over possible negative effects of timber management.  

 

[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:] Intensively managed pecan sapling with weed control, deer protection, and pruning to maintain central stem.Intensive Management of Hardwood Plantings
In the 1960s the diminishing supply of quality hardwood saw timber, especially black walnut, raised the question of how best to grow hardwoods in plantations to assure future supplies.  At the time, we determined the most promising native hardwood for timber production in intensively managed plantings was black walnut, white ash, and several of the oak species.  

 

[photo:] Swamp white oak 8 years after being planted as a large container seedlings grown by the Root Production Method (RPM®) in a former agricultural crop field along the Missouri River.  Trees were planted with redtop grass to control competition.Restoring Forests in Bottomland Fields
We have identified several promising practices and seedling types that can be used to successfully restore oak to future bottomland forests when bringing marginal agricultural lands back into forest production.

 

[photo:]  Red maple stem heating experiment.Fire Effects in Eastern Forests
Understanding fire effects requires consideration of the processes by which the effects occur.  We are applying process-based (mechanistic) approaches to modeling fire effects on endangered Indiana bats and fire-caused tree injury and mortality.  Fires pose risks for bats but also provide opportunities for improving bat roosting habitat, our project considers both sides of the problem. 

 

[photo:] Moderate-intensity surface fire in mixed-oak forestEcosystem Management Study: Restoration of Mixed-oak Forests with Prescribed Fire
Historically, fire was a frequent disturbance process in the mixed-oak forests of the central hardwoods region. Fire control has altered forest structure and composition. Forests are more dense and the sustainability of oak and hickory dominance is now threatened by an abundance of shade-tolerant and fire sensitive tree species such as red maple, sugar maple, and beech. Prescribed fire has been advocated to promote and sustain open-structured mixed-oak forests and the plants and animals that have adapted to these communities. However, long-term research on fire effects is lacking.

 

[photo:] Redring milkweed (Asclepias variegata), growing in an Ohio mixed-oak forest after repeated prescribed fires.Plant Diversity in Managed Forests
The great majority of plant diversity in forests is contained in the herbaceous layer, comprised of both herbaceous and woody species.  We seek a better understanding of how forest management activities affect plant diversity.  NRS-2 scientists are investigating the direct and indirect effects of timber harvesting, prescribed burning, herbicide application, and deer browsing (alone and in combination) on plant composition and diversity in mixed oak, Allegheny, and Northern Hardwood forests.

 

[image:]  Map of contigous USA - shows locations of FFS sitesFire and Fire Surrogate Treatments: The Central Appalachian Plateau Site
Current forests in many fire-dependent ecosystems of the United States are denser and more spatially uniform, have many more small trees and fewer large trees than did their presettlement counterparts. Causes include fire suppression, past livestock grazing and timber harvests, and changes in land use. The results include a general deterioration in forest ecosystem integrity and the threat of losing important, widespread forest types. Such conditions are prevalent nationally, especially in forests with historically short-interval, low- to moderate-severity fire regimes, such as the upland oak forests of the central hardwoods region.   

 

[photo:]  Sugar Maple Decline on the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau in northern PennsylvaniaSite, Stress, Nutrition, and Forest Health Interactions
A range of stressors including defoliating insects, pathogens, droughts, inadequate soil base cations, and changing climate have interacted to affect the health and regeneration of selected northern and central hardwood forest species. In the 1980s and 1990s sugar maple dieback and mortality was extensive across the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau in northern Pennsylvania. 

 

Photo: Atlantic SalmonStream habitat for Atlantic salmon fry and parr
The NRS roster of scientists even includes a fisheries biologist! His research focuses on the effects of change in habitat, land use, hydrology, and food-web structure on Atlantic salmon and trout in New England stream ecosystems. Large woody debris (LWD, that is, fallen logs and branches) are an important component of good aquatic habitat for trout and salmon, as they control the flow speed and thus sediment load, create pools, and provide nutrients for invertebrates. Our scientists works with New England and international groups that are working to preserve wild runs of salmon in the east and to reintroduce the Atlantic salmon into its historical habitat on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Last Modified: 03/06/2013