In the News

2015

Scientists Look to Big Data to Address Local Fire Problems

Burned trees with houses in the backgroundThe case of the Bastrop County Complex illustrates the need for a new way of thinking about the issue of wildfire. In September of 2011, a year of severe drought, a summer of record-breaking heat, winds from a tropical storm, and a few sparks combined to create the fire, which burned through 34,000 acres of southeastern Texas, claiming two lives and nearly 1,700 homes and leaving property damage totaling $325 million. Four years later, the memory still fresh in the minds of community members, 575 fire scientists and managers from around the world met nearby in San Antonio during the Association for Fire Ecology’s (AFE) Sixth International Congress — an important knowledge sharing event around the role of fire in land management that only happens once every two or three years. Among the attendees were scientists from the Eastern Threat Center and partners from Oak Ridge National Laboratory who presented a large body of research during a special session focused on leveraging big data to gain insights toward better solutions for living with fire. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: In Bastrop State Park, snags, surviving pines, aggressively resprouting holly, and clumped pine regeneration are seen four years after the Bastrop County Complex fire with developed areas in the background. Photo by Steve Norman, U.S. Forest Service.

 

International Scientist and ForWarn Researchers Meet Over a Common Challenge

Miguel Ortega Huerta, Hurricane_Jova_Oct_10_2011.jpga scientist with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, is seeking to understand vegetation damage following Hurricane Jova—a powerful storm that struck Mexico’s western coast in October of 2011. These impacts can be difficult to discern from remote sensing in the tropical dry forests that surround his field station in Chamela (in the state of Jalisco). He recently visited the Eastern Threat Center in Asheville, North Carolina, to present passive remote sensing methods and results from his work during a consultation with ForWarn researchers Bill Hargrove and Steve Norman. “Hurricane impacts differ in many ways from smaller disturbances like tornadoes, ice storms, or fire. Like Dr. Ortega Huerta, the ForWarn team has struggled to understand similarly complex landscape-to-regional responses that follow powerful storms that have struck the United States,” says Norman. He explains, "Along with damaging winds, hurricanes bring rain that can alleviate drought. At the edges, they can bring dry winds that can whip up wildfires. These changes are particularly hard to detect in satellite-based images of both tropical dry and temperate forests because the hurricane season is usually at the end of the growing season when decline in vegetation growth is normal.” After his Asheville visit, Ortega Huerta presented his work and engaged in additional discussion with ForWarn partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Expertise and insights exchanged among researchers facing common challenges could ultimately help land managers better understand hurricane impacts and develop more effective monitoring and management plans.

Pictured: A MODIS image from NASA’s Terra satellite shows Hurricane Jova approaching western Mexico on October 10, 2011. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

What Drives the Spread of Invasive Plants?

A forest is invaded by many non-native plants. Scientists often measure the number of invasive plant species to assess invasions, but species richness is just one factor that contributes to the spread of invasive plants. To gain insight into the drivers of invasion, university and Forest Service researchers used Forest Inventory and Analysis data to map and compare invasions in eastern and western forests of the United States. They modeled richness and prevalence of invasive species, and considered habitat quality and invasion vulnerability as well as the number of propagules produced by invasive plants (known as propagule pressure). Study results, recently published in Diversity and Distributions, reveal that eastern forests are more heavily invaded with varying impacts throughout the region and suggest that propagule pressure and habitat invasibility are key drivers whose contributions to large-scale invasions may differ depending on the stage of invasion. Eastern Threat Center research ecologist Qinfeng Guo and North Carolina State University cooperating scientist Kevin Potter are among the study's co-authors. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: A forest in western North Carolina is invaded by many non-native plants. Photo by Stephanie Worley Firley, U.S. Forest Service.

 

Patterns Matter: Researchers Look Beyond the Numbers to See the True Impacts of Global Forest Loss

An aerial photo of land overlaid with colors indicating tree loss between 2000 and 2012Between 2000 and 2012, the world lost forest area and gained forest area. But the losses exceeded the gains, according to researchers who compared tree cover data from those years and estimated a global net loss of 1.71 million square kilometers of forest—an area about two and a half times the size of Texas. That’s only part of the story, though. “In addition to the direct loss of forest, there was a widespread shift of the remaining global forest to a more fragmented condition,” says Kurt Riitters, Eastern Threat Center research ecologist and team leader and the lead author of a study describing the phenomenon, recently published in the journal Landscape Ecology. “Forest area loss alone underestimates ecological risks from forest fragmentation. The spatial pattern of forest is important because the same area of forest can be arranged in different ways on the landscape with important consequences for ecosystem processes.”
Read more in CompassLive, and see additional articles from the European Commission Joint Research Centre and the Partnership for European Environmental Research.

Pictured: In this aerial photo of land near Hiram, Georgia, tree cover as of 2012 is shown in transparent green; tree cover loss from 2000 to 2012 is shown in transparent blue. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of National Agriculture Imagery Program.

 

New Tools Inform and Assist Conservation Efforts in the Appalachians

Appalachian_landscapeResource managers, scientists, industries, and the public throughout the Appalachian Mountains have some new online tools to help them understand the sustainability, and vulnerabilities, of the region’s natural assets including forest products, water, food, nature-based tourism, and many other benefits provided by ecosystems. Available through the Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative’s (LCC) Web Planning Portal, Ecosystem Benefits and Risks provides synthesized information from regional inventories and assessments. The companion Guide to Ecosystem Services features more detailed descriptions and map examples of resource use and changing landscapes, and links users to relevant online data and tools. Eastern Threat Center ecologist Lars Pomara is collaborating with the Appalachian LCC and the University of North Carolina Asheville’s National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center to develop these online resources, which are designed to encourage protection of and investments in ecosystem services that support populations in Appalachia and beyond.

Pictured: A typical valley in the central Appalachian Mountains provides valuable ecosystem services. Photo by Appalachian LCC.

 

Biological Scientist Honored for Research Professional Support

Johnny Boggs is pictured with SRS Director Rob Doudrick and Forest Service Chief Tom TidwellFor 18 years, Eastern Threat Center biological scientist Johnny Boggs has worked with a research team studying the effects of global change on the hydrology, soil functions, and health of forested watersheds. He has planned field data collection outings to maximize resources and efficiency and diagnosed and repaired field equipment when unexpected problems arose, all while maintaining a 100 percent safety record. He has implemented a strategy for ensuring quality and continuity of field data collection by a variety of staff and interns and has developed databases and written software programs for managing and analyzing the large datasets they generate. He has also co-authored 17 scientific papers describing the team's body of work. These efforts are among those recognized by Southern Research Station (SRS) Director Rob Doudrick, who recently named Boggs the recipient of the 2015 SRS Director's Award for Research Professional Support. Boggs received the award during a ceremony with SRS employees and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell in Asheville, North Carolina, on November 17. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Johnny Boggs (center) accepts the 2015 SRS Director's Award for Research Professional Support from SRS Director Rob Doudrick (left) and Chief Tom Tidwell (right).

 

New Report Assesses Southeast's Climate Vulnerabilities and Management Strategies

Billion_dollar_disasters.jpgForestry and farming in the southeastern United States have long been the economic drivers of the region, sustaining people through the products and ecological benefits they provide as well as the cultural traditions they inspire. With working lands across the Southeast facing numerous challenges from population growth, land fragmentation, and the effects of weather extremes and climate change, land managers need to understand the risks and how to confront them. To fill this need, the Eastern Threat Center-hosted Southeast Regional Climate Hub (SERCH) published an Assessment of Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies, part of a series of similar reports developed by USDA Climate Hubs across the nation. The report describes the Southeast's key resources, what's at stake for working lands under pressure, what land managers can do to adapt to changing conditions and reduce climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions during operations, and USDA agencies and programs that can help. View the report...

Pictured: A figure from the report shows billion dollar weather/climate disasters between 1980-2012, highlighting vulnerabilities in the Southeast. Click to enlarge. (Source: Carter et al., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2014).

 

On National Forests and Grasslands, All Droughts are not Created Equal

DeSotoFalls.pngResearchers say today’s droughts are setting in more quickly and becoming more intense. How does this affect the productivity of national forests and grasslands and their ability to provide fresh water to millions of Americans? Eastern Threat Center scientists collaborated with Southern Research Station and university researchers to model the impacts of the five most extreme droughts between 1962 and 2012 across the conterminous United States and estimate their potential impacts on each of 170 national forests and grasslands. Their findings, recently published in Forest Ecology and Management, indicate that the “top five” droughts, on average, resulted in a 22 percent reduction in annual precipitation on national forests and grasslands. Potential impacts included reductions in ecosystem water use by 8 percent, water yield by 37 percent, and productivity by 9 percent. The highest potential reductions were found in the West and Southeast. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Researchers estimate that 14 percent of the national water supply originates on national forests. Drought impacts on these lands have important implications for land managers. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

 

Southern Research Station Volunteers Get "Buggy About Pollinators" at Bugfest

BConkling_Bugfest2015.jpgAre insects needed to produce coffee? What about apples and chocolate? Children and families learned the answers to these questions during a pollinator game at the Southern Research Station (SRS) exhibit, themed "Buggy About Pollinators," at the annual Bugfest in Raleigh. Held at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Bugfest is a free, fun-filled event that invites people of all ages to learn more about the world of insects. Eastern Threat Center resource information specialist Erika Mack, research ecologist Frank Koch, and North Carolina State University cooperating scientist Barb Conkling were among the SRS volunteers who staffed the exhibit and engaged in hands-on activities that highlighted the importance of pollinators, especially native bees. Nearly 32,000 people attended Bugfest. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Barb Conkling talks with Bugfest attendees at the SRS exhibit. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

 

Is Water Quality in the Neuse River Basin Protected After Timber Harvests?

Neuse_River_KenThompson.jpgOn lands managed for timber, leaving a forested buffer between timber harvest areas and waterways is one example of a Best Management Practice (BMP) that can protect water quality, but, until recently, the effectiveness of BMP strategies had not been evaluated in the North Carolina Piedmont region. Eastern Threat Center biological scientist Johnny Boggs led a study, published in the Journal of Forestry, that put BMPs in the Piedmont to the test. He and colleagues measured sediments and nutrients in small streams within paired watersheds draining into the Piedmont's Neuse River, which runs through many timber-producing forests. The researchers found increased levels of sediments and nutrients immediately after harvests had taken place, but concluded that BMPs do indeed protect the Neuse River's water quality because these changes were not severe enough to harm aquatic ecosystems. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: The Neuse River begins in North Carolina's Piedmont Region and flows for 275 miles to the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Ken Thompson, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

New National Monitoring Report Highlights Recent Forest Health Issues

2014_FHM_report.jpgAnnual Forest Health Monitoring reports summarize the status, trends, and analyses of the nation's forest resources. The recently published 2014 report, edited by Eastern Threat Center cooperating scientists Kevin Potter and Barb Conkling, features chapters authored by Center scientists and cooperators that discuss a variety of forest health issues, including patterns of insect and disease activity, forest fire occurrence, drought, core forest decline, and climate change risks and genetic degradation.

This project is jointly funded by the U.S. Forest Service Forest Health Protection Program and the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program.

 

Research Fellow Rides the Canadian Airwaves During International Conference

IMG_0074.JPGFor hydrologist Dennis Hallema, a recent conference presentation in Kelowna, British Columbia, turned into an opportunity to speak about an urgent research issue in front of an even larger audience. Following his talk at the 4th International Conference on Forests and Water in a Changing Environment, Hallema (an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education fellow working with the Eastern Threat Center) was approached by a producer for CBC Radio One. The following morning, Hallema spoke live on air with CBC host Chris Walker about the effects of wildland fires on water supply in the United States. The interview, which was broadcast July 8 on CBC Radio One Daybreak South, focused on a collaborative study that began in October 2014 with funding from the Joint Fire Science Program. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: A large part of the Douglas fir and larch forest outside Kelowna, Canada, was burned in the 2003 Myra Canyon fire. A 2015 photo shows slow recovery in the Interior Plateau due to low annual precipitation and nutrient-low soils. Photo by Dennis Hallema.

 

EPA Report Highlights Forest Loss and Fragmentation

A house and roads in the forestBetween 2001 and 2011, the contiguous United States lost three percent of its forested land cover area, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) latest Report on the Environment (ROE). Along with this forest loss came more fragmentation when core forest--critical for sustaining biological communities and ecosystem services that require large, intact areas--decreased by 12.8 percent over the time period. These findings come from Eastern Threat Center research ecologist Kurt Riitters' collaborative studies and analyses of the National Land Cover Database, which is updated every five years. Forest fragmentation is one of 85 indicators of environmental and human health changes described in the EPA ROE. Learn more about recent forest fragmentation across the nation and within each EPA region.

Pictured: Forest loss and fragmentation result from commercial and residential development in forested areas.

 

Faces of the Forest: Meet William "Bill" Hargrove

Bill Hargrove standing in front of an insect displayFrom an early age, Eastern Threat Center research ecologist Bill Hargrove was curious. So curious, he read an entire set of encyclopedias from cover to cover, dodged the fate of lightning bolts dancing around his shortwave radio, and became a familiar fixture at his local library. His interests broadened to studying insects and then leapfrogged from working on ecosystems at the watershed level to the much broader scale of landscape ecology. His Forest Service career has tracked a number of forest threats, each providing a unique challenge that has created a legacy of service that inspired curiosity, motivated his work, and has ultimately proved very gratifying. Read more in CompassLive, and learn even more about Hargrove's life and work from the U.S. Forest Service's 'Faces of the Forest' feature.

Pictured: Hargrove is an entomologist by training, and now conducts research at the landscape scale.

 

International Conference Explores Changing Forests and Water Resources

Forests_and_Water_Conference_2015.jpgEvery three years, researchers from across the globe meet to share findings from forest and water research needed to support land management and policy decisions in a changing world. Eastern Threat Center research ecologist Ge Sun is among those who established the 1st International Conference on Forests and Water in a Changing Environment held in 2006 in Beijing, China, and he has continued to play a key role in planning the conferences that followed. Most recently, he served as a technical committee member for the fourth of these conferences, held in Kelowna, British Columbia. Attendees, including Sun and fellow Eastern Threat Center scientists Johnny Boggs and Dennis Hallema, presented research results in a forum designed to foster knowledge exchange and opportunities for international collaboration. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: 2015 conference attendees. Attendance has increased exponentially since the first International Conference on Forests and Water in a Changing Environment was held in 2006.

 

Scholarships Support Tribal Students' Research

Five students have received Native American Natural Resource Scholarships ITC.pngand opportunities to connect with Forest Service scientists as part of an ongoing partnership between the Intertribal Timber Council (ITC) and Southern Research Station (SRS). SRS funded the scholarships to support the students' research on a variety of topics and to offset costs of participating in ITC's Annual National Indian Timber Symposium. “These students are encouraged to reach out to our researchers, who can assist them with their research project development,” says Eastern Threat Center biological scientist Serra Hoagland, who serves as a point of contact for SRS Tribal Relations. “This scholarship opportunity is a great way to uphold our federal trust responsibility with tribal communities by supporting the advancement of these American Indian students in natural resources fields of study." Read more in CompassLive...

 

For Loblolly Pines, A Fertilization and Water Scarcity Paradox

Throughfall exclusion structure among loblolly pinesAs in natural forests, the growth of loblolly pines in plantations is limited by essential resources: sunlight, nutrients, and water. Fertilization — an increasingly common practice for adding nutrients to boost wood production — allows trees to shift their growth away from roots to leaves and stems. Since a tree is dependent on its roots to provide water, how does a fertilized tree respond when water supplies are limited in times of drought? Does increased productivity intensify water stress? To explore these questions, university and Eastern Threat Center researchers experimented with fertilization treatments and simulated drought during a two-year study in a loblolly pine plantation located in central Virginia. Their findings were recently published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: An exclusion structure allowed researchers to simulate a 30 percent rainfall reduction in the loblolly plots. Photo by Andy Laviner, Virginia Tech.

 

Computational Landscape Ecologists Look Ahead During Symposium

Map of global phenoregionsTechnological advances and changing ecosystems have led to increased emphasis on and opportunities in the field of computational landscape ecology—the development of models and tools that can quantify ecosystem impacts from land use, land cover, and climatic changes. To outline a 10-year research agenda and guide young researchers in the field, Eastern Threat Center research ecologist Kurt Riitters and Neptune and Company environmental statistician Paul Duffy co-organized a symposium, “Research Priorities in Computational Landscape Ecology,” for the 9th World Congress of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) held in Portland, Oregon. Approximately 75 scientists and students attended the 10 symposium presentations, and 25 participated in the following discussion session. An effort is underway to prepare a symposium summary for publication. Notably, two symposium speakers recently received global recognition of their scientific accomplishments: Bai-Lian (Larry) Li (University of California, Riverside) is the recipient of the 2015 Prigogine Gold Medal in systems ecology, and Marie-Josée Fortin (University of Toronto) is the recipient of the 2015 IALE Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievements. Also among the symposium speakers were Center research ecologist Bill Hargrove and ForWarn collaborator Forrest Hoffman from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Save the date! The Eastern Threat Center will host the next meeting of the US-IALE in Asheville, NC, April 2-8, 2016.

Pictured: Computational landscape ecology can help researchers use "big data" to understand spatial patterns across landscapes. For example, Hargrove and partners used models to identify and map similar landscapes, known as global phenoregions. Click to enlarge.

 

From Fan to Fellow: Research Hydrologist Honored by Organization that Inspired his Career

Ge SunLong before Ge Sun became an associate editor of forest hydrology for the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA), he was a big fan. “The publications by AWRA with a strong focus on the comprehensive nature of waters inspired my early interest in forest hydrology and watershed management even before I moved to the United States in the early 1990s,” says Sun, a native of China and a research hydrologist with the Eastern Threat Center. Throughout his productive research career, Sun has remained devoted to the journal and AWRA’s mission. He recently learned that AWRA’s Board of Directors and members selected him to be a Fellow Member, an honor that recognizes outstanding service to AWRA and the water resources profession. Joining a distinguished group of Fellows designated annually since 1974, Sun will receive the Fellow Member award on November 15 at the AWRA President’s Reception during the 50th Annual Water Resources Conference in Denver, Colorado. Read more in CompassLive...

 

Genetic Studies Reveal a Tree’s History to Ensure its Future

Ponderosa pines stand tall in front of Yosemite Falls in California. Photo by Kevin Potter.The iconic ponderosa pine is vulnerable to climate shifts, high-intensity wildfires, and bark beetles — as well as development that replaces trees. To keep the ponderosa pine standing tall, researchers are looking for answers in its genes. For five years, Eastern Threat Center cooperating scientist Kevin Potter has led a study of the genetic diversity between and within what researchers have believed to be two varieties of ponderosa pine. Results, which were recently published in the journal Tree Genetics & Genomes, can help managers plan for conservation of existing trees and restoration of lost populations. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Ponderosa pines stand tall in front of Yosemite Falls in California. Photo by Kevin Potter.

 

Model Comparison Study Helps Aquatic Wildlife Managers Navigate the River of Streamflow Models

Chattahoochee_Wikimedia.jpgClimate change, land cover change, and withdrawals threaten aquatic ecosystem health in the Southeast, so managers rely on hydrologic models to predict streamflow changes as a result of these threats. But how do the many available models compare? A Southern Research Station-led study involving Eastern Threat Center researchers applied six models (including the Water Supply Stress Index) ranging in complexity to five study sites in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, an important source of water for people and aquatic ecosystems. Researchers found that all models were comparable and fairly accurate at predicting streamflow, with model calibration and available data being key factors in model performance. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Chattahoochee River. Photo by Mike Gonzalez, Wikimedia Commons.

 

Following a Clearcut, Riparian Buffer Trees Use More Water

Riparian_strip.jpgMaintaining a riparian buffer--an area of standing trees along a river or stream--is an important best management practice that protects water quality. When trees are harvested, the amount of water flowing through streams usually increases, but researchers have not previously known if changes in water use by riparian buffer trees could affect flow amounts (stream discharge). A recently published study in North Carolina State University’s Hill Demonstration Forest led by Eastern Threat Center biological scientist Johnny Boggs found that, after a clearcut, remaining buffer trees used 43 percent more water. These water use changes lessened the expected stream discharge increases and associated water quality impacts in downstream areas. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Maintaining a riparian buffer is an important best management practice. Photo by Duk, Wikimedia Commons.

 

Study Finds No Evidence for Widespread Southern Pine Decline

loblolly.jpgMillions of acres of southern pine forests form the foundation of forest industry in the South, so the presence of widespread southern pine decline would have important and costly implications. A study by University of Georgia and U.S. Forest Service scientists, including Eastern Threat Center research ecologist Frank Koch, found no evidence for the widespread occurrence of southern pine decline. Researchers believe that if this phenomenon--tree weakness and death involving multiple factors--is occurring, it is not apparent at the landscape level. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Loblolly (pictured), longleaf, shortleaf, and slash pines stretch across millions of acres in the South. Photo by USDA Forest Service.

 

Could Forest Thinning Help Ease Water Shortages in the United States?

cove.jpgPlanning for the future of the nation’s water resources is more important now than ever before as severe drought grips the West, affecting heavily populated areas and critical agricultural regions. Forests generally yield huge quantities of water—much more than crops or grasslands—but also use a lot of water during the growing season, so some land managers wonder if forest thinning could boost water supplies to people and ecosystems in a changing climate. Researchers from the Eastern Threat Center and the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory tested this idea and found that thinning could increase water yield, but the results are not proportional. Their findings were recently published in a special issue of the journal Hydrological Processes. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Photo by USDA Forest Service.

 

U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit Highlights TACCIMO's Role in New Forest Management Plan U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit Highlights TACCIMO's Role in New Forest Management Plan

Since the Francis Marion National Forest’s land and resource management plan was last revised in 1996, new disturbances, including climate change impacts, have emerged as issues of concern. The Template for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Management Options (TACCIMO) has been a useful tool for the forest’s planning team who compiled a broad assessment of forest trends and conditions as part of a new management plan currently in development. An article featured on the White House's U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit website summarizes their process. TACCIMO as well as the ForWarn monitoring system are among the Toolkit's featured tools selected to help users manage climate risks and opportunities.

 

New National Monitoring Report Highlights Recent Forest Health Issues New National Monitoring Report Highlights Recent Forest Health Issues

Annual Forest Health Monitoring reports summarize the status, trends, and analyses of the nation's forest resources. The recently published 2013 report, edited by Eastern Threat Center cooperating scientists Kevin Potter and Barb Conkling, features chapters authored by Center scientists and cooperators that discuss a variety of forest health issues, including patterns of insect and disease activity, forest fire occurrence, and drought; tree mortality; and forest disturbance monitoring across seasons. The draft 2014 report is also available online.

This project is jointly funded by the U.S. Forest Service Forest Health Protection Program and the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program.

 

Middle School Students Experiment with Remote Sensing on Science in Action Day

BBrooks_4.15.15.jpgAsheville area scientists recently joined Owen Middle School in celebrating its second annual Science in Action Day. Eastern Threat Center ecologist and ORISE fellow Bjorn Brooks was among the scientists who guided students through sets of science activities reflecting their area of expertise and day-to-day work. Brooks introduced two classes to his work--remote sensing of the environment--and demonstrated how sensors can be used to gather data from leaves and indicate tree health. “It’s amazing how much kids relish technology, and these students jumped at the chance to manipulate my DIY light sensor. All we have to do is show them how just about anything can be accurately measured and identified using homemade computer scraps, and they'll do the rest,” says Brooks. About 35 scientists and 600 students participated in the event, which was part of the North Carolina Science Festival.

Pictured: Brooks introduces middle school students to remote sensing at the Science in Action Day event. Photo by Carl Firley, Owen Middle School.

 

Southeast Regional Climate Hub Turns One Southeast Regional Climate Hub Turns One

The Eastern Threat Center-hosted Southeast Regional Climate Hub (SERCH) is celebrating its first year and reflecting on its successes. In February 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture established SERCH and other regional climate hubs and sub hubs to deliver science-based information, tools, and technology to farmers, ranchers, and forest land managers. Since that time, SERCH has grown a network of producers, educators, and researchers to develop and share the tools and strategies needed to address climate-related challenges such as drought, heat stress, excessive moisture, longer growing seasons, and changes in pest pressures. To learn about SERCH's recent achievements and to sign up for SERCH news and alerts, read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: During a SERCH field tour, Calvin Perry (left) and Gary Hawkins from the University of Georgia demonstrate a soil moisture instrument that is part of a precision irrigation system. Photo by Steve McNulty.

 

Science, Traditional Knowledge, and People Connect at "To Bridge a Gap" Meeting

TBaG_2015_panelists.jpg“Successful partnerships often depend on trusting relationships,” says Serra Hoagland, Eastern Threat Center biological scientist and a tribal liaison with the Southern Research Station. She was among the attendees of the recent "To Bridge a Gap" meeting, the 14th such gathering intended to strengthen relationships between the Forest Service and federally recognized tribal governments. Held in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, the meeting provided opportunities to exchange scientific research and traditional ecological knowledge and to discuss strategies for managing cultural and natural resources in the National Forests. Hoagland hosted and moderated two presentation sessions focused on natural resource issues, and Center extension and technology transfer specialist Sarah Workman shared information and tools with meeting participants. All 39 federally recognized Oklahoma tribes attended the meeting, as well as many tribes from other states and representatives from government agencies, academic institutions, and private industry. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Charles Coleman from Thlopthlocco Tribal Town (far left) speaks during a panel discussion at the "To Bridge a Gap" meeting. Photo by Serra Hoagland.

 

Center Scientists and Staff Reach Out to Community on Earth Day

NCSU_Earth_Day_2015.jpgPeople across the globe marked the 45th Earth Day on April 22 with celebrations and activities aimed at raising awareness of environmental issues. One such activity was North Carolina State University (NCSU)'s Earth Fair event, where the Eastern Threat Center's Erika Mack, Dennis Hallema, Emrys Treasure, Sarah Wiener, and Jennifer Moore Myers took turns staffing a table and engaging with the NCSU community. During the event, they shared printed materials along with online resources and live demonstrations of Center tools, including the Template for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Management Options (TACCIMO) and the Water Supply Stress Index (WaSSI). More than 100 students, NCSU staff, and members of the general public stopped by the table to learn about the Center's current research projects as well as the extension and outreach efforts of the Southeast Regional Climate Hub, and several students connected with opportunities for service learning projects and internships. The Earth Fair event was part of NCSU's larger Earth Month programming.

Pictured: Jennifer Moore Myers engages with NCSU's Earth Fair attendees. Photo by Emrys Treasure.

 

Climate Change Resource Center Delivers a New Interactive Education Module

CCRC_new_education_module.pngThe Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center (CCRC) has released its second education module, “Climate Change Effects on Forests and Grasslands: What You Need to Know.” The module provides a brief overview of climate change effects on water resources, vegetation growth, wildlife, and disturbances. The CCRC’s first education module, “Climate Change Science and Modeling,” provides a basic climate change foundation, and this new module builds on that foundation, examining climate change effects around the country. Interactive features allow users to control their learning experience, with opportunities to explore outside links, learn relevant facts, and explore examples of effects on different ecosystems. The module's main material is followed by an activity specific to the eastern or western United States and a personalized certificate of completion. The CCRC development team designed the module to be approachable and flexible for busy professionals and others, like the general public, who wish to understand observed and projected climate change effects. In addition, both modules help the Forest Service continue to make progress on the Climate Change Scorecard by giving all employees access to new education options.

 

Researchers Map Seasonal Greening in U.S. Forests, Fields, and Urban Areas Researchers Map Seasonal Greening in U.S. Forests, Fields, and Urban Areas

With signs of spring emerging  across most of the United States, the Eastern Threat Center's ForWarn researchers are monitoring the growth and development of vegetation, signaling winter’s end and the awakening of a new growing season. Now these researchers have devised a means of characterizing and tracking this transition to help land managers plan their work and understand how the timing of this year’s greenup compares to that of the 14 previous years. Using nationwide satellite imagery and data collected between 2000 and 2013, researchers quantified the seasonal progression from vegetation dormancy to full greenup using a common scale from 0 to 100%. They selected the median date associated with the 20th percentile at each location as a common reference point indicating a clear launch of the growing season and created maps detailing the typical dates of seasonal greenup in forests and grasslands, agricultural lands, and urban areas. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: A ForWarn map shows the median greenup dates across all lands to help land managers anticipate and plan for the impacts of disturbances.

 

Faraway Fires Strain Forest Management Resources in the East Faraway Fires Strain Forest Management Resources in the East

"If you want to understand what's happening to the trees and the forest and the fish and wildlife that inhabit it, you have to understand fire," says Eastern Threat Center Director Danny Lee. His insight appears in an Asheville Citizen-Times article describing the complexities of managing wildland fire during times of unprecedented fire seasons in the West, increasing numbers of homes located near forests, and skyrocketing fire management costs with far-reaching impacts on local forest management resources. "To the extent that we anticipate hotter, drier conditions in the summer season, then for at least the immediate future we are going to be dealing with larger and perhaps more extreme fires," says Lee. But, he adds, "There's a feedback mechanism in that the more fire you have, the more it becomes self-limiting. That is, the same acres can't burn every year, so the fires themselves are going to create fire breaks on the landscape." Read the article...

Pictured: A hotshot crew member works on the Rim Fire (2013), the third largest wildfire on record in California. Photo by Associated Press.

 

New Information about U.S. Forest Resources Supports Long-term Assessment and Planning New Information about U.S. Forest Resources Supports Long-term Assessment and Planning

Every five years, the U.S. Forest Service updates the Resources Planning Act (RPA) Assessment, a report on the status of forest resources across the nation. To support the 2015 update, Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists coordinated a technical document describing recent trends in forest area, growth, and mortality, as well as timber product outputs and other activities. Eastern Threat Center research ecologist Kurt Riitters contributed maps and information about forest fragmentation to the Forest Atlas of the United States, a source used by the SRS scientists who developed the technical document. As part of the larger RPA Assessment effort, Riitters is responsible for reporting current landscape patterns and forest fragmentation based on data from the National Land Cover Database and Forest Inventory and Analysis plots in addition to the status of protected area designations of all lands in the United States. The 2015 RPA Assessment is expected to be released in early 2016. Read more in CompassLive…

 

Urbanization Impacts Stream Water Quantity and Quality Urbanization Impacts Stream Water Quantity and Quality

Since the 1950s, urban areas have increased by more than 400 percent and are now home to 80 percent of Americans. Urbanization affects streams by altering microclimate, surface water dynamics, groundwater recharge, stream geomorphology, biogeochemistry, and stream ecology. These changes impact both water quantity and quality (nutrient, sediment, and pollutant levels), threatening water resources in urban areas. Eastern Threat Center research hydrologist Ge Sun and a partner from the Southern Research Station's Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory recently reviewed urbanization and its impacts on water and published their findings in the Water Resources Impact journal. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Impervious surfaces like pavement can cause water to flow into streams more rapidly, carrying pollutants such as sediments along with it. Photo by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

 

Report Provides New Level of Detail about Water from Forested Lands

SRSGTR197.jpgFor over 19 million people in the South – roughly the population of Florida – clean water begins in the region’s national forests. Authors from the Forest Service Southern Region and Southern Research Station, including scientists from the Eastern Threat Center, released a report on the amount of surface drinking water originating from national forest lands in the South. Using the Water Supply Stress Index (WaSSI) model and information on surface water intakes, researchers determined that 8 trillion gallons of water flow from southern national forests each year to serve the needs of more than 2,100 communities and cities, including Houston, Atlanta, Knoxville, and Birmingham. Read more in CompassLive...

 

A Future for Freeze-Tolerant Eucalyptus in the South?

eucalyptus_EBarnard.jpgEucalyptus, a fast-growing tree native to Australia and Indonesia, is planted across large areas of Asia, Africa, and South America as a major source of hardwood fiber for paper and biofuels. Because of its sensitivity to freezing temperatures, Eucalyptus hasn’t been planted extensively in the U.S., where fiber markets are dominated by softwood from pines grown in the Southeast, but there is increasing interest in the South in the development of a freeze-tolerant Eucalyptus species to grow in plantations as a hardwood fiber source. Recently published research by Southern Research Station and Eastern Threat Center scientists provides important first-time analyses of the potential impacts of introducing plantations of freeze-tolerant Eucalyptus into the South. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Fast-growing Eucalyptus is planted in south Florida. Photo by Edward L. Barnard, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood.org

 

The Future of Streams: Using Air Temperature to Model Stream Warming

Cosby_Creek_TN_STomlinson_USGS.jpgStream temperatures affect the health of aquatic animals as well as many other biological and ecological processes. However, finding out whether – or how much – streams are warming has been difficult, as long-term temperature data does not exist for many waterways. A new Southern Research Station-led study supported by the Eastern Threat Center shows that long-term historic air temperature data can be coupled with short-term stream temperature to predict future warming in streams. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Researchers estimated historical and future changes in stream temperature and predicted that streams in the Appalachian ecoregion are among the most vulnerable to climate change. Photo by Stewart Tomlinson, US Geological Survey.

 

University Collaboration Enhances Climate Research and Information Sharing

kingmcnulty.jpgWorking landowners across the Southeast are as diverse as the landscape itself, but they share one goal. "From an individual standpoint, they all want the same thing, which is the sustainability of their range, agricultural and forest lands," says Eastern Threat Center research ecologist Steve McNulty in North Carolina State University's (NCSU) Results magazine. In the article, McNulty discusses the importance of finding common ground with land managers who need information to sustain their operations in times of changing conditions and the partnership with NCSU that enables researchers to monitor climate effects across the region. Read the article...

Pictured: NCSU researcher John King and Steve McNulty (right) monitor climate effects through collaborative research.

 

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