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Long-term Studies

February 2014

Long-term studies are critical for understanding how forests function, change over time, and respond to events like forest fire or invasion by non-native insects.   Long-term research on experimental forests is a legacy of the Forest Service.  The 22 experimental forests in the Northern Research Station provide opportunities for testing new forest management techniques and serve as laboratories for addressing current and future questions.  This month we feature an employee, research, a science product and a partnership all involving long-term studies.    

Environmental Education Links

Long-term research data sets can be a foundation for exceptional inquiry-based learning. At the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation, for example, educators use data from the Hubbard Brook and Bartlett Experimental Forests to create data-based activities for their students.

The Foundation and its partners have also developed mock NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) inquiry task exams for 8th and 11th grades. These innovative mock exams help teachers in NH, VT and RI prepare their students to use long-term data to strengthen science process skills.

The Hubbard Brook Research Foundation Education Program is funded through the USDA Forest Service and the National Science Foundation’s sLTER program.

Featured Employee

Frederica Wood

Freddie Wood

Frederica (Freddie) Wood has been the database manager at the Northern Research Station’s lab in Parsons, WV since 1986.  Her job combines her interests in the outdoors, nurtured from childhood experiences at her grandparents’ cabin in Arkansas, with the computer skills she first honed while working for her father at the National Cutting Horse Association after earning her bachelor’s degree in natural resources.   

Much of the data Wood works on at the Parsons lab is collected from the nearby Fernow Experimental Forest—an experimental forest renowned for its long-term silvicultural, watershed, and soil productivity research.  In addition to working with the scientists at the Parsons lab, she also interacts with people who request our data as part of larger regional studies or syntheses. 

On a typical work day, Wood may review data that has just come in from the field, update long-term databases, deal with issues related to lab instruments and lab quality assurance, help troubleshoot field data loggers and sensors, and answer questions about data sets that the Forest Service provides to cooperators.  She gets great satisfaction from knowing that she is providing high quality data to the scientists with whom she works.

According to Wood, good database management is especially important for long-term studies.   If standard procedures for data collection and management are not maintained throughout a study, data quality can be negatively impacted.  Also, when procedures change or new technologies are implemented the old and new must be compared and documented.  The quality of long-term data sets depends on the quality of the supporting documentation.    

Find out more on Freddie Wood’s biography page >>

Featured Product

Landscape Scale Carbon Monitoring Database

The Landscape Scale Carbon Monitoring Database, generated from studies in 7 locations across the U.S. helps us understand carbon pools.   The Landscape Scale Carbon Monitoring Database was designed by scientists at the Northern Research Station and fills an important gap in the data available to support the U.S. North American Carbon Monitoring Program (NACP).  Monitoring carbon is important because carbon is a primary greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.   The NACP is a multidisciplinary research program focused on understanding North America’s carbon sources, sinks and changes in carbon fluxes. 

The Landscape Scale Carbon Monitoring Database was generated through intensive site research studies and associated monitoring efforts at a network of 10 sites in seven locations across the country.  These monitoring sites vary with respect to forest types, management treatments, and disturbance histories.  The data is of great value to NACP in its role as a leader in carbon accounting on regional and continental scales.

A recently published General Technical Report (GTR-NRS-119) on the Landscape Scale Carbon Monitoring Database describes the methodology used to collect, compile and manage multi-tier land monitoring data related to carbon pools at a network of long term forest monitoring sites.  The design of the sampling protocol and the database provide examples for applications in other regions.   

More information >>


Featured Research

Repurposing Data

Data from long-term studies established decades ago offer scientists unique opportunities to answer emerging questions.Beginning in early 1900s the Forest Service began to establish experimental forests as places where scientists could conduct long-term, manipulative research on such topics as ecosystem processes, silviculture, wildlife habitat and forest growth and development.  This information would help people better understand and manage the forests.  Today, the 80 Experimental Forests across the country are providing answers to emerging questions that had not been thought of when the experiments were first initiated 50+ years ago.  

Recently, NRS scientists and collaborators in Maine and Minnesota took advantage of the opportunity to reuse data from a subset of the Northern Research Station’s 22 experimental forests to find out about how forest management outcomes vary across the climate gradient of the Northern Forest.  NRS researchers and partners examined forest growth under three silvicultural treatments across multiple ecoregions and forest types from Maine to Minnesota to Missouri in their efforts to answer the question. 

Findings presented in a graduate student thesis suggest that the outcomes from similar silvicultural treatments vary across the region. This means other factors, such as climate, are controlling growth.  The study is providing inroads into ways to use experimental forests as a true network.  A publication currently in preparation will describe the methodology used to pool data from studies originally designed for local purposes to make regional or landscape scale inferences.  

For more information about this research contact: Laura Kenefic, Christel Kern, or Aaron Weiskittel

More information on Experimental Forests>> 

Partners: University of Maine; University of Minnesota; U.S. Forest Service, Research Data Archive

Featured Partnership

NEON Tower Construction at the Bartlett Experimental Forest

The Bartlett Experimental Forest is home to a new data collection tower as part of the National Environmental Observatory Network (NEON).

An exciting new addition has recently been made to the landscape of the Bartlett Experimental Forest in northern New Hampshire.  Construction of a tower more than eight stories high, reaching above the tree canopy, was completed in November 2013.  The tower on the Bartlett Experimental Forest is one of a network of 106 sites across the U.S. that will make up the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), which is funded by the National Science Foundation.  The tower will be used to measure impacts of climate change, land use change and invasive species on natural resources.  

Scientists at the Northern Research Station nominated the Bartlett Experimental Forest as a candidate site for inclusion in the NEON network in January 2007 based on the decades of silvicultural and wildlife research that had been done on the forest.  The selection of the Bartlett Experimental Forest for inclusion in the network in spring 2009 was due in part to the long history of forest management there.   By the end of 2014, the NEON tower will be fully instrumented and ready to gather data on gas exchange between the atmosphere, the forest and the soil.  

The NEON network represents the cutting edge of science when it comes to ecological monitoring.  As data collection commences, the tower will make the Bartlett Experimental Forest an international magnet for scientists from other research institutions significantly expanding partnership opportunities. 

More information on the Bartlett Experimental Forest or contact John Brissette

More information on NEON>>