Family Forests Are the Ties That Bind the Landscape


Map and legend showing percent loss of U.S. interior forest between 2001 and 2011Family forests have an enormous capacity to provide ecosystem services such as clean air and water, timber and nontimber forest products, wildlife habitat, and scenic beauty and recreation — benefits that stretch far beyond property lines. According to Center research ecologist Kurt Riitters, sustaining these services depends on not only the condition of individual family forests but also the characteristics of bordering lands. When Riitters and Jennifer Costanza, a North Carolina State University landscape ecologist and Center cooperator, studied changes in U.S. landscape patterns over a 10-year period, they found that landscapes containing family forests exhibited substantial changes over a relatively short period of time. “If the expansion of an urban area results in the loss of forest or if forest land is converted to farm land, an adjacent family forest’s ability to sustain ecosystem services is threatened. The effects could even be felt across a regional area,” says Riitters. The study, which was published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, also identified broad areas where conservation of family forests could be targeted and leveraged to achieve far-reaching impacts. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Researchers mapped percent loss of interior forest--unfragmented land critical for habitat and ecological functions--between 2001 and 2011. At the end of the study period, just 29 percent of family forest area was interior forest. Click to enlarge.


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