USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
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.

Ecosystem Function and Health Program

About Us


To lead the development and communication of knowledge and technology required to sustain, enhance and restore the function, health, and productivity of ecological, hydrological, and atmospheric systems, and associated benefits to society.


Our goal is to develop knowledge and technologies required to quantify ecosystem function and health, understand how global change, pollution, and land use impact ecosystems, and to manage or rehabilitate ecosystems for enhanced resilience to change.  Our work will provide the science and technology to address the following outcomes:

  • Improve ecosystem function, health, and productivity in order to provide sustainable and viable forest and rangeland habitats for future generations.  To achieve this outcome, we must develop the techniques and measurable indicators (outputs) for quantifying the function, productivity, and health of ecosystems.
  • Provide sustainable water and air resources in the arid, semi-arid and tropical environments of the Pacific Southwest region.  Understand the underlying mechanisms of ecosystem change, including drivers such as climate change and disturbance agents (e.g. fire, insects, disease, invasive species, land use change, etc.) and their individual and cumulative impacts on watersheds and airsheds.
  • Develop adaptable approaches and effective technologies for sustaining, enhancing or restoring capacity and productivity of tropical, subtropical and temperate ecosystems. The results will provide specific methods and tools that improve the ability of ecosystems to provide goods and services under a changing climate.

Focus and Scope

The Ecosystem Function and Health Program focuses on four broad Problem Areas that are of key importance to understanding ecological, hydrological and atmospheric systems, and to improved management of these systems to sustain, enhance and restore the capacity of these ecosystems to provide goods and services under a changing climate. Specific expertise exists in diverse areas, including but not limited to: (i) the ecology and management of tropical, sub-tropical and western U.S. forests including effects of management on soils, soil microbiology, and soil invertebrates; (ii) mathematical methods required to analyze, model, or otherwise quantify biological and physical data to enhance our understanding of natural resources management; (iii) air pollution impacts on western forests, including effects of pollutants on plant function, soils and soil processes, and water quality; (iv) the effects of climate change on forest biogeography, demography and adaptation, as well as impacts on ecosystem carbon storage, cycling and loss; (v) management and restoration of forests, including the ecology of mixed conifer and subalpine forest stands,  accelerating development of late successional stands through diverse silvicultural approaches, and silvicultural techniques to enhance economic and ecological value of young tropical and sub-tropical forests; (vi) monitoring and management of invasive and native forest insectsand pathogens; and (vii) impacts of climate change and management on upland ecosystems and hydrological systems.  Regional, national and international scientific communities are served by the diverse research conducted by PSW science staff. Finally, through the PSW’s Communications Group, new approaches to discuss ecosystem function and health issues with the public will lead to a greater understanding and acceptance of the next generation of resource management strategies and practices.


Program Charter [pdf]