2009 Science Accomplishments Report > Goods, Services, and Values Program Accomplishments >
Key Accomplishments of the Goods, Services, and Values Program in 2009
The mission of the Goods, Services, and Values Program is to conduct and communicate research to advance understanding of relationships among people and forest and rangeland ecosystems.
Research Problem Statements
Problem 1: Improve knowledge of fundamental social and economic processes and their interactions with the natural environment
Problem 2: Examine the roles of policies, programs, and other institutions in interactions between people and natural resources
Problem 3: Describe and analyze the implications of changing demographics, socioeconomics, and technology on natural resources and their management
Problem 4: Describe the capacity of dynamic landscapes to provide for evolving human wants and needs
Problem 5: Conduct and use integrated multidisciplinary research to support development of management approaches that account for interactions among socioeconomic, ecological, and physical factors
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Properly placed shade trees reduce electricity use and thus carbon emissions
Researchers examined the effects of shade trees on summer electricity use in 460 homes in Sacramento, California. This is the first study to analyze electricity bills to determine the actual impact shade trees have on energy use. Researchers found that a tree's location influences the magnitude of the effect of shade trees on summertime electricity use. Trees on the west and south side of a dwelling reduced electricity use in the summer, whereas trees on the east side had no effect. Thus, while directly sequestering carbon through photosynthesis, shade trees also help reduce a home's carbon footprint by reducing emissions from electricity generation. The London plane tree, the most common tree in Sacramento, illustrates these carbon benefits: over 100 years, the tree reduces net carbon dioxide emissions from summer electricity use by 31 percent, provided that it is on the west side of the house.
This study has given city planners and local environmental groups a scientific basis for articulating the benefits of urban trees. As a result, this study has generated a large and positive response. The Salt River Project in Arizona consulted with the lead scientist on the possibility of setting up a shade tree program in Phoenix, and the vice president of U.S. Geothermal Inc. consulted with the lead scientist about applying these findings in Idaho. This information has been used by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the Sacramento Tree Foundation, the City of Portland's Urban Forestry Program, Portland Friends of Trees, and ECONorthwest.
Contact: Geoffrey Donovan, email@example.com, Goods, Services, and Values Program
Partners: National Institute of Standards and Technology, Sacramento Municipal Utility District
Land use policies affect levels of carbon sequestration
Researchers used the Forest and Agriculture Sector Optimization Model—Greenhouse Gases Model to analyze alternative policy scenarios and compare their potential influence on land use and related effects on carbon sequestration and other environmental and economic benefits. The "business as usual" scenario suggests that the amount of forest land converted to more developed uses will be substantial, causing significant net release of greenhouse gases currently stored in those forests. Scenarios involving carbon-related payments to U.S. private forest-land owners led to increase in carbon sequestration. Modeling results do suggest that carbon-related payments to landowners engaged in forestry or agriculture can substantially affect future land use patterns, levels of terrestrial carbon sequestration, forest resource conditions, agricultural production trends, and bioenergy production.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), USDA's Global Change Program Office, and U.S. Congressional staff have used the models and findings from this work to analyze legislative proposals that address climate change and new policies that impact land use, such as the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act and the Conservation Reserve provisions of the 2008 farm bill. The research is also being used to inform decisionmaking under the Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program, and it has attracted international recognition. Australia consulted with the scientists for advice on addressing climate change, and spinoff modeling systems have been developed in Europe and elsewhere.
Contact: Ralph Alig, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goods, Services, and Values Program
Partners: Oregon State University, Duke University, Texas A&M University
New analysis of historical data on old-growth Douglas-fir yields valuable insights
In the 1960s, as part of a wood quality study, thousands of Douglasfir trees were harvested from old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. A station scientist recently analyzed some of these original measurements. Because destructive sampling of old trees is no longer tenable, these data offer a unique opportunity to understand relationships between tree size, branch and crown dimensions, and forest density. Results suggest that the branch structure of large-diameter, young Douglasfir trees is not the same as that of older ones with comparable girth. This is valuable information for forest managers designing management strategies that attempt to accelerate the growth of younger forests to create habitat for organisms associated with old forests. The variability in tree crowns documented in the historical data set also underscores the importance of avoiding small samples from a few locations when attempting to draw inferences about the crown architecture of Douglas-fir trees. The new analysis offers evidence that investment in research can pay dividends over decades, and that old studies can shed light on contemporary questions.
Contact: Susan Hummel, email@example.com, Goods, Services, and Values Program
Study reveals trend in NEPA assessments regarding recreation planning
Researchers surveyed 106 interdisciplinary team leaders involved in recreation-related environmental assessment required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to find out how they conceive of success in those processes. The online survey also explored common trends in these processes with regard to team makeup, project goals, analytical techniques, and process outcomes. Few team leaders felt that limiting recreation use was an important goal, nor were they in favor of maximizing recreation use. This suggests team leaders sought a balance between meeting recreation use and resource protection goals. The study also found that social science and recreation specialists were underrepresented on travel management interdisciplinary teams. Interdisciplinary team leaders were much more likely to have academic training in forestry or biological sciences than in recreation or social science disciplines.
Contact: Dale Blahna, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goods, Services, and Values Program
Partner: Virginia Polytechnic and State University
Communities in north-central Colorado and eastern Oregon are concerned about invasive plants
In Colorado, natural and human-caused disturbances, such as bark beetle outbreaks, housing development, and recreation exacerbate plant invasions. This study assessed public awareness and concern about invasive plants in a forested region. About 88 percent of those surveyed reported having heard about invasive plants. However, respondents were unlikely to have heard about specific, locally problematic plants targeted for control. Most respondents had Pulling knapweed, an invasive species in eastern Oregon. Tom Iraci checked plants for invasive potential before purchase or planting, and a small minority had attempted to remove or reduce established invasive plant species. Another study in eastern Oregon found that family forest owners in the ponderosa pine ecosystem are most concerned about Canada thistle, leafy spurge, and knapweed, but are not very concerned about exotic weeds as a fire hazard. Building awareness about invasive plants is key to encouraging helpful public behaviors.
Contact: Susan Charnley, email@example.com, Goods, Services, and Values Program
Partners: University of Illinois
Southern rural areas projected to experience greatest increases in development
Rapid development of rural land is projected to continue as the U.S. population grows. This may reduce the capacity of these lands to produce the goods, services, and functions critical to society. Combining population projections and trends in people per housing unit with development indices, researchers projected that developed area in the United States will increase by 54 million acres between 2003 and 2030. The greatest absolute increases are projected to occur in the Southeast and South Central regions of the country. Continued declines in the number of people per housing unit also will contribute to the rate of rural development because more housing units will be needed to accommodate the population. As the area of rural land decreases, greater demands will be placed on remaining open space. More emphasis on open-space conservation through regulatory, incentive, or other programs may decrease the rates of rural land conversion in the coming decades.
Contact: Ralph Alig, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goods, Services, and Values Program
Partner: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
New techniques help rural forest communities plan for future
New techniques help rural forest communities plan for future Thousands of rural communities across the West have experienced significant changes in the last 30 years as management policies on neighboring national forests shifted from resource production to biodiversity conservation. Towns that once centered on timber or mining may now be hubs for recreation and tourism on the neighboring forest. Many have also become retirement destinations, a place for city dwellers to build a second home, or perhaps even telecommute while enjoying the natural amenities of the rural setting. The economic activity that follows these changes may benefit some communities and residents, but not all.
Station scientists are studying the relation between public land management policy, amenity migration, and socioeconomic well-being in the Pacific Northwest. They show that managing for multiple forest uses may influence a community's ability to adapt to these socioeconomic changes. They have developed a method for estimating a community's socioeconomic resilience by evaluating the transition stages from an extractive, commodity-based economy to an amenity-based economy. This information can help a community identify its current transition stage, what to expect in the next stage, and possible policy actions to mitigate foreseeable conflicts. Another study developed a method of manual indexing that allows a flexible and replicable way of assessing and ranking the amenity levels for communities at various geographic scales.
Contact: Dale Blahna, email@example.com, and Susan Charnley, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goods, Services, and Values Program
Partners: Institute for Culture and Ecology, University of Illinois, Utah State University
Ecosystem services markets are not a cure-all to environmental woes
"Ecosystem services markets" are among the latest buzzwords used by environmental policymakers and conservationists. But what is the real promise in ecosystem services markets and what can realistically be achieved by their implementation? To begin answering these questions, scientists published an article that outlines how environmental markets work in theory and discusses several issues that influence their effectiveness. They point out that the success of traditional approaches to ecosystem protection such as conservation easements and land trusts should not be overlooked amid enthusiasm for market approaches. Voluntary markets, in particular, are only one part of a larger solution at best and, at worst, are a serious distraction from addressing the difficult task of achieving an optimal level of ecosystem protection. Ultimately, ecosystem protection depends on public support. Educational campaigns that emphasize the societal value of functioning ecosystems may help garner the support necessary to enact and fund conservation efforts.
State and Private Forestry staff are using these findings as an educational tool for partners and collaborators. The Environmental Protection Agency also has consulted the lead scientist about ways to conceptually frame ecosystem services and how to measure them.
Contact: Jeffrey Kline, email@example.com, Goods, Services, and Values Program
Partner: M.J. Mazzota, Ltd. For more information: Kline, J.D.; Mazzotta, M.J.; Patterson, T.M. 2009. Toward a rational exuberance for ecosystem services markets. Journal of Forestry. 107(4): 204–212.
Scale matters when integrating social and ecological systems
The scale of analysis used when examining social systems determines many of the processes that will be identified. This is true in ecological systems as well. Therefore, integrating social and ecological systems requires special attention to scale because system processes may change across scales. Researchers found that people interact with and value natural areas at multiple scales. For example, a person's attachment to an individual campsite many differ compared to his or her attachment to an entire wilderness area. To identify potential conflicts between recreation and other resource uses and to ensure equal consideration of recreation requires a framework that considers management across multiple scales. Without multiscale and spatially explicit analysis of recreation along with other natural resources, important tradeoffs among different social and ecological uses and values could be neglected. By incorporating ecological criteria and scale concepts into recreation-planning frameworks, land managers can improve the foundation for decisionmaking by resolving issues of incongruent boundaries and mismatched scales.
Contact: Linda Kruger, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goods, Services, and Values Program
Partner: University of Idaho
Bear-damaged logs often can still be used as lumber
Washington's Capitol State Forest is an important timber-producing area. The forest is also home to black bear, which use the trees as a food source in the spring and early summer, stripping away bark to consume sapwood that is rich in sugars. A high incidence of bear-damaged trees led forest managers to ask how the value and volume of lumber attainable from these trees was affected. Common practice when harvesting bear-damaged trees has been to cut the butt section of the bottom log (as bear damage is generally limited to this lower section) and leave it in the woods. Researchers compared harvested logs and found that the difference in log volume recovery between undamaged and bear-damaged logs was about 6 percent. They found that the butt 16-foot logs from bear-damaged trees were worth about 5 percent less than the butt logs from undamaged trees. This suggests that an optimal harvesting policy would be to haul the entire butt log to the mill rather than cutting off the damaged portion and leaving it in the woods. Although the value of the damaged portion is lower, most of the lumber recovered from that section can be used, with only a modest reduction in grade and value.
Contact: Eini Lowell, email@example.com, Goods, Services, and Values Program
Partner: USDI Bureau of Land Management Oregon State Office
Freshly harvested Sitka spruce logs lose most moisture in first 8 months of air drying
Freshly harvested Sitka spruce logs lose most moisture in first 8 months of air drying The moisture content of freshly harvested logs affects many aspects of log home construction, including log processing, the durability of the resulting house, and transportation costs to the construction site–logs with high moisture content are heavier and thus cost more to transport. In southeast Alaska, large acreages of second-growth timber are now reaching commercial size, and log home construction is one potentially important use of the logs from these stands. Interest in adding value to Alaska wood products led station scientists to evaluate the feasibility of air-drying younggrowth Sitka spruce and western hemlock in southeast Alaska.
They discovered that the fastest drying rates for both species occurred for peeled logs that were stored inside. Sitka spruce lost considerable moisture during the first 8 months. In most cases, western hemlock needed additional drying beyond the 12-month study period to produce satisfactory house logs. Nonetheless, peeling logs, then air-drying them indoors for 8 to 12 months should allow sufficient reductions in shipping weight, and thus reduce shipping costs. These findings will help entrepreneurs determine appropriate levels of capital investment in the region's wood processing infrastructure.
Contact: David Nicholls, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goods, Services, and Values Program
Partner: Ketchikan Wood Technology Center
Station lends expertise to payment for ecosystem services project in Vietnam
A station hydrologist and an economist traveled to Vietnam to assist with a pilot program involving payment to rural residents for protecting the forest-based ecosystem services. The project is part of the USAID Asia Regional Biodiversity Conservation Program. The program centers around the water quality of Da Nhim reservoir in Lam Dong Province in southern Vietnam, in the Dong Nai River basin. The hydroelectric powerplant in this central highlands region is paying upstream residents to not cut trees and to patrol the forest to prevent others from cutting them. Maintaining the upstream forest reduces erosion, which prevents sediments from filling in the reservoir, and thus maintains the powerplant's capacity to generate electricity. About $3.5 million has been paid to residents since the project's initiation in 2007.
The economist analyzed the payment system and contributed to a planning effort for tourism and development where the objective was to increase the percentage of benefits retained in the local economy. The hydrologist helped establish a monitoring system for water quality and provided training on mitigating the environmental effects of a road that traverses the watershed. This project is being closely watched by the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations, and other southeast Asian countries who have expressed interest in replicating it.
Contact: Michael Furniss, email@example.com, Communications and Applications Group, Trista Patterson, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goods, Services, and Values Program
Partners: Colorado State University, USAID, Winrock International, World Conservation Union (IUCN)