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Richard Birdsey
Program Manager, NGCRP
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 United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Global Change Research in the USDA Forest Service

Program Objectives

By the end of the next century, the global average temperature is expected to have increased by 1.0 to 3.5°C (1.8 to 6.3°F), according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and other greenhouse gases increase, so too will the impacts of air pollution, increased ultraviolet (UV-B) radiation, and intensified land use. One inevitable result will be rapid ecosystem changes. These changes will compel society to make important and far reaching decisions regarding the management and allocation of natural resources to adapt to and mitigate global change. As the steward of more than 191 million acres of national forests and grassland, the USDA Forest Service is committed to making informed decision and responsibly implementing them.

The Forest Service Global Change Research Program (FSGCRP), as described in the most recent program plan, provides the scientific basis to address three broad questions concerning global change and forest ecosystems (USDA FS 1993):

What processes in forest ecosystems are sensitive to physical and chemical changes in the atmosphere?
Or in policy terms: Is there a problem?

How will future physical and chemical climate changes influence the structure, function, and productivity of forest and related ecosystems, and to what extent will forest ecosystems change in response to atmospheric changes?
Or in policy terms: How serious is the problem?

What are the implications for forest management and how must forest management activities be altered to sustain forest productivity, health, and diversity?
Or in policy terms: What can be done about the problem?

Through participation in the US Department of Agriculture's Global Change Research Program, the FSGCRP is a part of the US Government's Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). The USGCRP has been developed under the direction of the Executive Office of the President, through the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and its Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR). The FSGCRP also maintains extensive contacts with international and private programs and, thus, contributes to global change science worldwide.

Program Elements
In order to meet its objectives of providing a sound scientific basis for policy and management decisions, FSGCRP research focuses on four scientific program elements and two crosscutting activities. Scientific program elements include:

  1. Atmosphere/biosphere gas and energy exchange
  2. Ecosystem dynamics
  3. Disturbance ecology
  4. Human activities and natural resource interactions.

Crosscutting activities include:

The national program is implemented through regional programs.

US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 1992. Forest Service Global Change Research Program - program plan update. PA-1497. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 36 p.