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Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

Sustaining Forests

Restoration of Red Spruce Forest Ecosystems

Research Issue

[photo:] Today red spruce occupies only a small percentage of the area it once covered in the Central Appalachians. Restoration efforts are aimed at expanding the extent of this important tree species, which will improve diversity and increase the habitat for several other associated threatened, endangered, and sensitive species.Central Appalachian red spruce forests have been greatly reduced in extent and integrity over the past century and are no longer considered a commercially viable forest type in the region.  This decline also has put several wildlife species at risk due to habitat loss, most notably the Virginia northern flying squirrel and the Cheat Mountain salamander. 

Our Research

Our research provides important information toward understanding the ecology of red spruce forests, thereby contributing to management and restoration opportunities of the montane red spruce ecosystem.  We also provide information used by wildlife managers to predict and improve the status of endemic species, such as the Virginia northern flying squirrel.  Our research also provides knowledge to help buffer this forest type against the effects of climate change.  

Expected Outcomes

As a result of our research, land managers will make better, more informed decisions regarding the management of high elevation forests in the central Appalachians.  Our leadership will broaden the interest in conserving and restoring this important forest type.  An important forest ecosystem, noted for its biological diversity will be preserved and enhanced.

Research Results

Rentch, J.S.; Ford, W.M.; Schuler, T.S.; Palmer, J.; Diggins, C.A. 2016. Release of Suppressed Red Spruce Using Canopy Gap Creation--Ecological Restoration in the Central Appalachians. Natural Areas Journal. 36(1): 29-37. https://doi.org/10.3375/043.036.0108.

Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Sturtevant, Brian R. 2014. Using scenario modeling for red spruce restoration planning in West Virginia. Journal of Forestry 112(5): 457-466.
Beane, Nathan R.; Rentch, James S.; Schuler, Thomas, M. 2013. Using maximum entropy modeling to identify and prioritize red spruce forest habitat in West Virginia. Res. Pap. NRS-23. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 16 p.

Rentch, James S.; Schuler, Thomas M., eds. 2010. Proceedings from the conference on the ecology and management of high-elevation forests in the central and southern Appalachian Mountains. 2009 May 14-15; Slatyfork, WV. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-64. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 242 p.

Rentch, James S.; Schuler, Thomas M.; Ford, W. Mark; Nowacki, Gregory J. 2007. Red spruce stand dynamics, simulations, and restoration opportunities in the central Appalachians. Restoration Ecology 15(3):440-452.

Menzel, Jennifer M.; Ford, W. Mark; Edwards, John W.; Ceperley, Leah J. 2006. A habitat model for the Viriginia  northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus) in the central Appalachian Mountains. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station. Research Paper NE-729. 10 p.

Ford, W. Mark; Stephenson, Steven L.; Menzel, Jennifer M.; Black, Dawn R.; Edwards, John W. 2004. Habitat characteristics of the endangered Virginia northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus) in the central Appalachian mountains. The American Midland Naturalist. 152: 430-438.

Schuler, Thomas M.; Ford, W. Mark; Collins, Rachel J. 2002. Successional dynamics and restoration implications of a montane coniferous forest in the central Appalachians, USA. Natural Areas Journal 22:88-98.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • Thomas M. Schuler, USDA-Forest Service- Northern Research Station- Research Forester
  • Melissa Thomas-Van Gundy, USDA-Forest Service Northern Research Station - Research Forester
  • John Brown, USDA-Forest Service Northern Research Station – Research Forester

Research Partners

Last Modified: 06/13/2018