Scientists & Staff

Woodall in northern MN

Christopher W. Woodall

Project Leader, Research Forester
271 Mast Road
Durham, NH, 03824-0640
Phone: 603-868-7638

Contact Christopher W. Woodall


Current Research

As a project leader I provide scientific leadership for a cadre of dedicated scientists and staff involved in the development of forest science and related applications that improve our understanding, monitoring, and management of northern forest ecosystems from Maine to Minnesota.  A number of world-class research forests are maintained by this research unit that provide a plethora of opportunities for engaging partners (states, universities, NGOs) in research of mutual interest.

Research Interests

In addition to my leadership of the research unit, impactful research assigned to me includes refining our quantification and understanding of the role of forest dead wood in forest stand dynamics, production, and carbon cycles.  In addition to dead wood exploration, I investigate the refinement of forest stand dynamics metrics, such as stocking indices, to accomodate emerging theories of tree functional traits and related stand development processes.  Finally, as a former Forest Inventory and Analysis scientist and Lead Scientist of the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory of US Forests, I identify ways to upscale research results from experimental forests to the population level with a focus on forest carbon accounting and management.

Why This Research is Important

My research, leadership, and analyses fill critical information needs regarding forest ecosystems to the general public, resource managers, scientists, policy makers, economists, and a wide range of other natural resource specialists. Success in this mission is crucial to assessing the sustainability of not only forest ecosystems in the northern United States, but also the health of our Nation's forests. Research outputs provide Forest Service customers and clients with crucial information and provide improved techniques for data application to a range of resource inventory and monitoring needs (e.g., national carbon stock assessment and national forest stand relative density).

Professional Experience

  • Adjunct Professor of Forestry, University of Minnesota 2008 - Current

Professional Organizations

  • Forest Science (2010 - Current)
  • American Geophysical Union (2002 - Current)
  • Ecological Society of America (2000 - Current)
  • Society of American Foresters (1991 - Current)

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

Research Datasets

  • Headlee, William L.; Lietz, Sue M.; Baumann, Tina M.; Zalesny, Ronald S. Jr.; Donner, Deahn M.; Hall, Richard B. 2016. Final spatial and tabular data from a process-based model (3-PG) used to predict and map hybrid poplar biomass productivity in Minnesota and Wisconsin, USA. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive. https://doi.org/10.2737/RDS-2016-0029.

National Research Highlights

Percent change in (a) forest land use and (b) net forest cover change by study hexagons, 2002-2006 to 2007-2012, eastern U.S. Forest land use appears to increase in contrast to apparent widespread loss of forest cover. Brian Walters. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

A Tale of Two Forest Carbon Inventories: How Land-Use Measurements Affect National Greenhouse Gas Inventories

Year: 2016

In a tale of two different forest carbon (C) inventories, the epilogue is that these C inventories are for the same forest but with different authors (i.e., land use versus cover) that can result in starkly contrasting conclusions in regard to forest C dynamics with serious implications for policy makers.

Shannon’s Diversity Index of a forest’s wood specific gravity (i.e., wood density), which serves as an indicator of various forest ecosystem processes such as selfthinning. USDA Forest Service

The Next Generation of Forest Analysis: Integrating Tree Functional Traits With the “Big Data” of Forest Inventories

Year: 2015

Over recent years, plant traits such as shade tolerance or wood density have emerged as valuable variables in interpreting plant population dynamics. As forest dynamics such as growth and mortality are central to forest conservation across the United States, integrating tree traits into forest inventory analyses has the potential to greatly refine the monitoring and management of U.S. forests by the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program at the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station.

Mushroom on piece of downed dead wood. Fungal communities are a critical driver of dead wood residence times.  Christopher Woodall, USDA Forest Service

If a Tree Falls in a Forest, How Long Does It Lie There

Year: 2014

Dead wood is critical to nutrient cycling, carbon dynamics, tree regeneration, wildlife habitat, and wildfire behavior in forests. Forest Service scientists conducted one of the first large-scale studies of downed dead wood decay rates and found that the residence time of dead wood was dependent on the size of dead wood, its species, and climate in which it resides across forests of the eastern United States. Large pieces of dead conifer wood in high-latitude climates may reside for over 100 years in forests before completely decaying and disintegrating.

Distribution of forest inventory observations of seedlings (blue) and trees (red) for eastern red cedar in eastern U.S. forests:  (A) Time 1: all forest sites, (B) Time 2: non-disturbed forest sites, and (C) Time 2: disturbed forest sites. Christopher Woodall, USDA Forest Service

Can Tree Species Rapidly Adapt to Climate Change by Migrating?

Year: 2013

New techniques to monitor tree ranges in forests of the eatern U.S. suggest that current ranges may not be shifting along their range margins in response to current climate change.

Climate change risk matrix for forest ecosystem carbon pools in the US. Likelihood of change in carbon stocks is based on the coefficient of variation of median forest carbon stock densities among K�ppen-Geiger climate regions (i.e., x-axis) based on the national forest inventory plot network. Size of carbon stocks are based on the US National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (i.e., y-axis). Societal response (e.g., immediate adaptive response or periodic monitoring) to climate change events depends on the size and relative likelihood of change in stocks. Year 2100 projections are based on linear extrapolations of current carbon stocks and imputing current median carbon pool densities by climate region to projected future climate regions for calculation of coefficients of variation. The soil organic carbon pool exhibits the highest variability among climate regions and therefore may be most affected by climate change or climate change induced disturbance events. In contrast, the dead wood pool has a relatively small stock with low variability among climate regions. Explicit climate change effects are not incorporated into this matrix as they represent a number of complex feedbacks both between stocks (e.g., live aboveground biomass transitioning to the dead wood pool) and the atmosphere (e.g., forest floor decay). USDA Forest Service.

Risk Matrix Highlights Knowledge Gaps in Forest Carbon Stocks

Year: 2013

Forest Service scientists propose a basic approach to assess global change risks to forest carbon stocks in the U.S., which builds on the current U.S. forest inventory coupled with current and projected climatic regions

Map of downed and dead woody material. Grant Domke, USDA Forest Service

Better Estimates of Carbon Inventory in Dead Wood Now Available

Year: 2013

Researchers with the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program have sampled downed and dead woody material (DWM) since 2002 so most U.S. states now have a complete cycle of DWM data. As a result, for the first time, researchers used field measurements to obtain estimates of DWM biomass and carbon stocks for the FIA program's report and for DWM carbon estimates in the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory report.

National standing dead biomass (Mg/ha) Forest Service

First Inventory of Standing Dead Trees Across the United States Developed

Year: 2012

Study compares differences between previously modeled estimates and new empirical estimates

The change in forest industry employment (NAICS 113, 321, 322, 337) from 2005 to 2010 compared to each state's total manufacturing employment in 2005.   Each state's circle is scaled to its total timberland growing stock volume in 2010 (northern region). Forest Service

Analysis Reveals Cyclical and Structural Changes in Forest Products Industry

Year: 2012

Structural changes may be difficult to reverse but prospects for growth exist in forest product exports and wood-based biorefining

Mean difference in tree-level carbon stocks between the Component Ratio Method and Jenkins' approach for tree species in the conterminous U.S. Forest Service

New Tree Volume and Biomass Estimation Procedures Implemented for the Yearly U.S. National Greenhouse Gas Inventory

Year: 2012

New procedures have improved the accuracy, reliability, and transparency of the U.S. National Greenhouse Gas Inventory of U.S. forests and biomass assessments

Last modified: Monday, October 03, 2016