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Be Connected

 

October 2016

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe," conservationist John Muir wrote in 1911. More than a hundred years of Forest Service research continues to affirm Muir’s observation: the interlacing of forests and wildlife and people is breathtakingly beautiful and profoundly complicated. In October, our stories include a scientist, research, a product and a partnership that illustrate a few of the ways that nature and people are connected. 

Environmental Education Link

The GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) Program envisions “A worldwide community of students, teachers, scientists, and citizens working together to better understand, sustain, and improve Earth's environment at local, regional, and global scales.” Connect to science and nature where you live through GLOBE.

Featured Scientist

Yude Pan

Yude Pan

Yude Pan has always connected trees with human health and wellbeing. Her deep appreciation for forests and what she describes as their “irreplaceable services to humanity” and an exceptional mind for mathematics, carried Pan from her hometown of Qingdao, China, to the Northern Research Station’s headquarters in Newtown Square, Penn. For 19 years, Pan has been a research scientist in the Station’s Climate, Fire, and Carbon Cycle Sciences research work unit where she studies terrestrial ecosystems, with a particular focus on forest ecosystems.

Understanding how forests will function and remain resilient in greatly changed environments in the future weaves through Pan’s current research, which includes exploring forest carbon budgets and the role of forests in the global carbon cycle, the impacts of disturbances on forest dynamics, and responses of forest ecosystems to multiple environmental changes.  “I hope my studies can provide critical knowledge to inform policy decisions and improve forest management to maintain ecosystem services and socioeconomic needs, and to meet the challenge of climate and other global changes,” Pan said.

In addition to their services to humanity, forests also pose tremendous puzzles that Pan finds irresistible. “Forest science is such a rich subject that connects to so many scientific fields, such as biology, ecology, geology, geography, soil science, hydrology, atmospheric science, biometrics and modeling, and it is also so closely related to human society and management,” she said. “You have to work hard and apply broad knowledge if you want to have a deep understanding of forest science.”

One of Pan’s most influential studies was published in the journal Science in 2011. “A Large and Persistent Carbon Sink in the World’s Forests” has (so far) been cited in peer reviewed journals more than 1,600 times. “It is gratifying to see that our research continues to influence the way other scientists look at forests and carbon,” Pan said. “We believe we have had an important impact on global carbon cycle science and have made a contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change historic Paris Agreement on combating climate change.”

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Featured Product

Examination of worldwide hardwood lumber production, trade, and apparent consumption: 1995-2013

Stacks of hardwood lumber drying at a U.S. mill.

While food and beer may be increasingly hyper local commodities, hardwood lumber has gone in a different direction.  Research by Northern Research Station scientists Bill Luppold and Matthew Bumgardner suggests that the world is a very connected place for anyone producing hardwood lumber. Their 2015 study, “Examination of worldwide hardwood lumber production, trade, and apparent consumption: 1995-2013,” delves into worldwide trends and variations in hardwood lumber production, importation, exportation, and ultimately consumption of hardwood as the raw ingredient for products like furniture and kitchen cabinets.

In 1995, the United States was the world leader in production of hardwood lumber, and the nation also led the world in using hardwood lumber for manufacturing products such as furniture and housing fixtures. By 2013, the U.S. was producing just 16 percent of the world’s hardwood lumber (behind China’s 31 percent) and use of hardwood lumber had declined by more than 40 percent to 13 percent, putting the U.S. a distant second to China’s 36 percent.

The greatest share of that decline occurred after 2002. “The loss of the furniture manufacturing industry to other regions, predominately East Asia, was followed by a steep decrease in domestic home construction,” Bumgardner said. “It was a one-two punch.”

Luppold and Bumgardner’s research established that in recent years, exports have become the single-most important market for higher-value U.S. hardwood lumber, with a major change in the destination of exported lumber. In 2000, 72 percent of exports from the United States went to Canada, Europe, and Mexico, with Canada being the largest market. By 2013, 61 percent of exports from the United States went to East Asia nations, with China being the largest export market with a 43 percent market share.

“It is important for manufacturers and researchers alike to stay abreast of changes in international hardwood markets,” Luppold said. “The world since 1995 is different, and if you are a forest owner, you have to pay attention to the world.”

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Featured Research

Ash Trees in Peril

Interns place EAB eggs on nursery grown ash trees to test for resistance to EABAcross North America and Europe ash trees are under siege by two invasive species – one insect and one fungus.  In North America the emerald ash borer (EAB) has killed tens of millions of trees across 28 states since it was first introduced to Michigan in the 1990s. In Europe, the fungus pathogen responsible for ash dieback disease has wreaked havoc on ash trees for over 20 years and has spread to 22 countries. While EAB has not yet spread through Western Europe, it is currently making its way across Central Russia. Ash dieback disease has not been found in the United States. Researchers are very concerned that the spread of these invasive species could pose a double threat that would further devastate ash populations already under attack on both continents.

Research Biologist Jennifer Koch of the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station is working as part of an international team with scientists from Queen Mary University London, Forest Research UK and Oxford University to help ash trees cope with these two significant threats. Koch and her colleagues have already tested 27 species of ash for resistance/susceptibility to EAB. Across the Atlantic, research collaborators are testing the same species for resistance/susceptibility to ash dieback disease. Genomic sequences of thousands of genes from each of the ash species will be generated and scientists will look for evolutionary patterns of variation in genes that co-occur only in species with resistance to EAB and/or ash dieback disease. Once gene sequences responsible for resistance are identified, scientists will work on incorporating them into more susceptible species.

“Since eradication efforts to eliminate these two invasive species have proved ineffective, efforts to bolster ash resistance through genetics and breeding may be the last hope for survival of these environmentally and economically important species,” said Koch.

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Featured Partnership

SilvaCarbon

Andrew Lister and Karen Schleeweis delivering a training activity on forest monitoring using high resolution satellite imagery and ground data in Huila, Colombia. Photo credits: Camille McCarthy, USFS International Programs.

Tropical countries around the world hold large stores of carbon in dense lush forests, however the current rates of deforestation and degradation of these forests contribute significantly to the release of carbon in the form of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a primary factor in climate change. A collaboration among the Forest Service and other U.S. federal agencies in partnership with universities, non-governmental organizations and developing countries, SilvaCarbon is a technical cooperation program designed to provide scientific information and tools to assist countries in monitoring and reducing these emissions.

The first step is a big one: developing national forest monitoring systems that will provide baseline information on forest change and greenhouse gas emissions.  With this baseline information, countries will be able to continue monitoring emissions and work toward goals of reducing emissions through improved land use management protocols.

The U.S. Forest Service is one of a number of federal agencies assisting in the SilvaCarbon effort.  At the Northern Research Station, scientists working in the National Inventory and Monitoring Applications Center and other research units participate in research partnerships and conduct technology transfer activities, including training in and demonstrations of forest inventory design and data processing, remote sensing assistance, and project design consultation.   With funding provided by the U.S. Forest Service International Programs division, scientists have worked closely with partner staff in several countries in Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa.

“Making a contribution to the effective monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions as a means of achieving more climate friendly land management practices is extremely rewarding,” says Research Forester Andy Lister.  “Working in partnership with tropical countries and other federal and non-governmental organizations to realize these goals is a demonstration of what can be achieved when we all work together toward a common end.”

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