US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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About EFRs

experimental forests displayed on U.S. map with Holdridge life zones

Our experimental areas represent most U.S. ecosystems; the Holdridge life zone classification is shown above.

EFR Advantages

  1. Most EFRs contain significant stream systems, and dozens contain experimental watersheds with multiple paired basins. Site infrastructure (climate stations, stream gauging stations, laboratories, housing, technical support, etc.) and national distribution provide unique benefits for natural resource research.
  2. Base Forest Service funding supports consistent and high quality data collection that attracts additional research by stakeholders and partners. The FS investment is often leveraged 10-fold by partners who bring grants and projects that build on key research questions at each EFR.
  3. Data from long-term research and monitoring on our experimental areas are available for syntheses and modelling.
  4. Replicated, manipulative EFR experiments develop and evaluate management options and practices at multiple spatial and temporal scales. This work forms much of the foundation of forest and grassland management in the United States and abroad. The opportunities to build on this foundation of ideas and long-term data are significant.
  5. EFR research often links physical, biological, and social sciences. The intertwining of these disciplines adds to the research value by making EFRs unique places for education, demonstration, and information exchange.
  6. About 35% of EFRs are within 50 miles, and 15% are within 25 miles, of an urban area. This offers exceptional opportunities to link people and the natural environment through research, education, and partnerships.

Study Themes at Experimental Forests and Ranges

  1. Water quality and quantity: Federal lands are a major source of drinking water in many parts of the U.S. EFRs are the primary source for long-term research and data on water quality and quantity and how land management affects water.
  2. Restoration: Developing systems for managing and restoring forests, grasslands, and watersheds.
  3. Carbon: Understanding sources and fates of carbon is key to global carbon budgets. New experiments, coupled with long term studies of vegetation succession and decomposition, help build better models of carbon responses to land management.
  4. Forest fires and other disturbances: Fire, insects, invasive species and other disturbances increasingly affect the health and character of U.S. forests. EFRs provide key information for understanding and responding to these threats.
  5. Real-time data: New methods for collecting and streaming climatic, hydrologic and biologic data from EFRs provides researchers, managers and educators across the country with real-time information on these systems.

Inter-site Research

Collecting decomposing litter.

Our experimental areas support many forms of multi-site research, monitoring, and data sharing that address questions at regional and larger scales.

Examples include:

  1. Long-term litter decomposition experiment installed at many sites
  2. Experimental watershed studies with common management treatments and publicly-accessible data in a central archive
  3. Monitoring and analysis of carbon dynamics — see Birdsey et al. 2004 for an overview or Cole et al. 2015 for data from the project
  4. Multi-site studies of streamflow and vegetation change

Embedded Within Other Research Networks

EFRs participate in a number of external networks, such as:

  1. The National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program
  2. National Atmospheric Deposition Network (NADP)
  3. National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)
  4. The Smithsonian’s Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO) network