Volume 8, Issue 4 - September/October 2015
Eastern Threat Center Highlights
Patterns Matter: Researchers Look Beyond the Numbers to See the True Impacts of Global Forest Loss
Between 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, Center research ecologist 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...
Researchers mapped the forests of 2000 and 2012 and examined patterns of changes. 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
Resource 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.
A typical valley in the central Appalachian Mountains provides valuable ecosystem services. Photo by Appalachian LCC.
Report Assesses Southeast's Climate Vulnerabilities and Management Strategies
Forestry 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.
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).