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US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
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Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Rapid monitoring of climate change effects improves forest management

Eastern Threat Center collaborative research has detected regional shifts in the diversity of forest seedlings, indicating forest biodiversity change that enables robust and rapid monitoring of climate change effects. Kevin Potter, North Carolina State UniversitySnapshot : Climate change and other threats are likely to alter the composition of forests as species die out in some areas and move into others, which could in turn alter the ecological function of forest communities. A cooperating scientist from North Carolina State University is working with Forest Service scientists to measure broad-scale changes in forest biodiversity across the eastern United States. Recent patterns have emerged, serving as new indicators of forest biodiversity change that will allow for the robust and rapid monitoring of climate change effects on biodiversity across broad regions.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Kevin Potter 
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2011
Highlight ID : 409

Summary

Climate change and other threats are likely to alter the composition of forests as species die out in some areas and move into others, which could alter the ecological function of forest communities. To support forest management related to these climate change impacts, a cooperating scientist from North Carolina State University is working with Southern Research Station Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center (EFETAC) scientists to measure forest biodiversity changes in the eastern United States. A new approach known as phylogenetic community analysis makes measurement of the functional diversity of forest communities possible by calculating the cumulative evolutionary age of all the species in a community based on their position on a phylogenetic tree of life generated from gene sequencing studies and the fossil record.

This evolutionary diversity is arguably a more biologically meaningful measurement of biodiversity than traditional statistics such as species richness and abundance. Using repeated measurements on thousands of Forest Inventory and Analysis plots, results have detected recent broad-scale patterns of change in forest biodiversity, including increasing seedling diversity in the South and decreasing seedling diversity in the North. These new indicators of forest biodiversity change will allow for the robust and rapid monitoring of climate change effects on biodiversity across broad regions.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • North Carolina State University, Northern Research Station
  • Forest Health Monitoring Program