You are here: NRS Home / Featured Research / Restoration

Uniqueness of Northeastern Forests

October/November 2013

The Northeastern United States is a region of contrasts.  It is one of the most densely populated areas of the country and also one of the most forested areas.  It is home to the bright lights on Broadway and the spectacular fall color displays in New England.  The port of entry for many goods from abroad, the Northeast is also the entry way for many invasive insects and plants.  The complexity of the region provides challenges and opportunities for natural resource managers.  This month we feature a scientist, research, a science product and a partnership all devoted to ensuring the health and sustainability of the unique Northeastern forests.  

Featured Scientist

Kevin T. Smith

Supervisory Plant Physiologist, Kevin T. Smith (r) and a colleague “dissect” foliage to get the inside story on tree health. Photo by Ken Dudzik, US Forest Service NRS

The intimate relationship of trees with their seasonal environment peaks on a sunny mid-October day in New England with fall foliage in full autumnal splendor.  Northern Research Station Plant Physiologist, Dr. Kevin T. Smith, works to get the inside story on tree responses to environmental change, infection, and injuries. 

With trees increasingly exposed to disturbances in the form of invasive insects and pathogens, changing fire regimes, increased frequency of extreme weather, and human activity, Dr. Smith’s research is fundamental to help sustain the health and viability of the region’s forests.  Enhancing sustainability promotes uninterrupted delivery of the many benefits forests provide including clean water, nutrient cycling, carbon storage, wildlife habitat, wood production, and livable cities and towns.  

Kevin’s more recent research endeavors include studies on tree recovery following injury from fire and storms.  Nearly 30 years of experience in his field of study combined with his keen insight and articulate nature place Dr. Smith in high demand as a speaker, research partner and teacher throughout the region and beyond.  And his phone is often ringing this time of year with people clamoring for him to tell the story of the fall colors.  

Find out more on Kevin T. Smith's scientist profile

Featured Product

The Alien Forest Pest Explorer tool generates maps of areas at risk from invasive insects and pathogens.

North America is currently under siege from invasions by damaging forest pest species. The Alien Forest Pest Explorer (AFPE), online in 2012, is a web-based tool developed by Northern Research Station scientists and collaborators to help forest managers better understand, anticipate and respond to pest risks in their areas.  This knowledge will help in controlling the spread and associated damage from these invaders. 

A recent study showed that the northeastern United States is particularly susceptible to these pest invasions compared to other regions of the country.  This is due in large part to the number of pest arrivals in the northeast and the abundance of natural areas susceptible to the pests.  The Alien Forest Pest Explorer database includes data on the presence of 75 forest insect species and 15 forest pathogen species across the United States.  The tool can be used to generate customized maps by state, county, city or zip code and view reports providing photos, range maps, and biological information.  Although it is difficult to prevent these alien invaders from arriving in the U.S. this new tool can assist in minimizing their impact in an efficient manner. 

More information>>

Featured Research

Images generated using remote sensing are used by researchers to conduct urban tree canopy assessments.

Tree canopy, composed of the leaves, branches and stems of trees, provides many benefits to urban communities, including moderating temperatures, improving water quality, providing wildlife habitat and enhancing neighborhood beauty.  Northern Research Station scientists along with their collaborators have been at the forefront of research underlying the development of the methods and tools for assessing the urban tree canopy. 

Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) assessments of cities generate information that helps city planners to better understand their tree resource and the benefits it provides.  Communities use information from these assessments in a multitude of ways including prioritizing tree planting efforts, helping justify urban forestry budgets, and as the basis for master plans. 

UTC assessments have been conducted for more than 70 jurisdictions since 2006, from small towns to large cities and counties in the United States and Canada.   In New York City, the Department of Parks and Recreation has used its UTC Assessment and Prioritization analysis to set a goal and prioritize its tree planting program.  An important outcome in general is that UTC Assessments and Prioritization analysis have facilitated the shift towards an “all lands, all people approach,” integration of social and ecological knowledge and data, and multi-agency and stakeholder collaboration to achieve urban sustainability goals.

More information>>

Featured Partnership

Family Forest Research Center scientists talk with landowners about forest management.   Photo by David Kittredge, University of Massachusetts Amherst, used with permission.

More than a third of the 751 million acres of rural forest land in the United States is owned by families and individuals, collectively referred to as family forest owners.  In the Northeast, a large proportion of rural forest lands are family forests, in contrast to the West where the majority of forest land is federal.  The Family Forest Research Center (FFRC), a partnership between the Northern Research Station and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Environmental Conservation, was established to conduct research on family forest owners across the country.

Specifically, the FFRC conducts research on the attitudes, needs, concerns and demographics of family forest owners.  It also investigates forces affecting family forest owners that in turn may affect the sustainability of U.S. forest land.   A recent study conducted by the Center examined the potential impacts of the federal estate tax on family forest owners.  Since many family forests are passed down generation to generation, these taxes could force some forest owners to sell their timber or land to cover tax costs.   This in turn could result in land use conversion and associated impacts on ecosystem health.  Understanding the potential impacts of tax law on forest sustainability may help to prevent these impacts from being realized.

More information on the Family Forest Research Center 

More information on impacts of federal estate taxes on family forests