USDA Forest Service
 

Pacific Southwest Research Station

 

Pacific Southwest Research Station
800 Buchanan Street
West Annex Building
Albany, CA 94710-0011

(510) 559-6300

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.

About Us: Research Accomplishments 2012

Urban Ecosystems and Social Dynamics

Three recreationists read a sign located in front of a large tree at Big Trees Trail, in Sequoia National Park. [U. S. Forest Service] On-click enlarges photo.Three recreationists read a sign located in front of a large tree at Big Trees Trail, in Sequoia National Park. [U. S. Forest Service]

The interconnection between humans and nature is complex and enduring. People need and yearn for the resources that only nature can provide: clean water, clean air, natural scenic beauty, and a connection to the land and wildlife. The Pacific Southwest Research Station strives to maintain forests, sustain functioning ecosystems in urban and wildland areas, enhance and protect quality of life, and ensure benefits to society through interdisciplinary research that examines urban ecosystems and social dynamics of natural resources conservation, management, and restoration.

The Urban Ecosystems and Social Dynamics Program conducts research and communicates science needed to understand and enhance the interconnections among ecosystems, people, and societies.

Research focuses on the following areas:

  • Determine the relationships among human uses, human values, ecosystem services, and management;
  • Ascertain the roles of changing demographics, urbanization, socioeconomics, and technology on use and sustainability of natural resources; and
  • Examine the impacts of public policies on ecological and social patterns and processes along rural-to-urban gradients.

2012 Research Highlights

Assessing the impact of a changing climate on forest diseases

A changing climate is projected to have far-reaching environmental impacts both domestically and abroad. A PSW report examined the impact of climate change on forest diseases and how these pathogens will ultimately affect forest ecosystems in the Western United States and Canada. Drawing on a large body of published research, the report details the effects of eight forest diseases under two climate-change scenarios—warmer and drier conditions, and warmer and wetter conditions. Forest diseases discussed in the report include foliar diseases, Phytophthora diseases (such as sudden oak death), stem rusts, canker diseases, dwarf mistletoes, root diseases, and yellow-cedar decline.

Relationship to forests linked to recreationists' self-identity

Recreational uses of forest lands are psychologically and socially important. Data collected from recreationists in both the United States and Greece show that a person's attraction and connection to the forest has a positive effect on his or her sense of identity and social bonding with others. This suggests that forest recreation experiences are both immediately fulfilling and important to one's quality of life and sense of self. This research contributes to an understanding of the role of outdoor recreation and will help inform managers and policymakers who set priorities on socially-relevant ecosystem functions and services.

View of Los Angeles, California, with trees interspersed among houses, and hills in the distance. [Photo by George Gonzalez, City of Los Angeles] On-click enlarges photo.View of Los Angeles, California, with trees interspersed among houses, and hills in the distance. [Photo by George Gonzalez, City of Los Angeles]
This is a picture of cabins in Wilsonia, a community proximate to the Sequoia National Forest. [Photo by Elke Schuster] On-click enlarges photo.This is a picture of cabins in Wilsonia, a community proximate to the Sequoia National Forest. [Photo by Elke Schuster]

Urban tree growth modeling: why tree size matters

It is well-known that large trees provide more ecosystem services than small trees. Station scientists have developed growth equations for urban tree species throughout the U.S. and are catalyzing new collaborations between researchers and professionals in the planning and management of high performing landscapes. This research helps managers select, locate, and manage trees to more effectively cool urban heat islands, conserve energy, filter air pollutants, reduce runoff, sequester carbon, and promote human well-being. This science has resulted in a greater awareness of tree benefits, increased investment in tree management, and more productive urban forests.

Guidelines help fire managers in Europe combat large fires

Historically, forest fires have played a significant role in shaping European, and most particularly, Mediterranean forest ecosystems. During the last few decades, socio-demographic changes in the Mediterranean basin countries have significantly altered land use patterns. These have resulted in abandonment of large areas, reduction in agricultural crops, and reconversion to forest lands. A concomitant resulting change has been an increase in the number, intensity, and size of large fires in Europe. In response to these events, the European Union Commission chartered a fire science research project to address the causes and consequences of large fires in Europe and offer potential solutions. PSW was a member of the international Scientific Steering Committee, providing guidance and technical review for the Fire Paradox Project. From this project, fire scientists developed guidelines for policymakers and fire managers on how to better respond to fire management problems in their regions.

Visit the Urban Ecosystems and Social Dynamics Program pages on our website.

Last Modified: May 3, 2013 10:50:01 AM