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Individual Highlight

Making Trees Outside Forests Count

Photo of Screenshot of the interactive StoryMap.Screenshot of the interactive StoryMap.Snapshot : Trees in agricultural landscapes, or trees outside forests, are an undercounted resource in the United States. These resources serve important ecological functions, yet little information describing their extent and location is readily available. Partners from the USDA Forest Service are leading an effort to assess and map trees outside forests in response to this gap in information.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Kellerman, Todd 
Research Location : Northern Plains States
Research Station : Washington Office (WO)
Year : 2019
Highlight ID : 1611


Trees in the Great Plains are often found in agricultural landscapes in distinct formations. Two environmentally important types of agroforestry common in this region are riparian buffers and windbreaks. Riparian buffers (sometimes referred to as riparian forest buffers) are natural or re-established trees that line and stabilize stream and river banks. They also act as a filtering system by preventing pollutants from reaching water bodies. Windbreaks are linear plantings of trees designed to enhance crop production, protect people and livestock, and benefit soil and water conservation. Both formations of trees are often too small in area or too narrow in width to be included in traditional ground-based forest inventory processes, but they can be inventoried by creating maps of tree cover using high-resolution aerial photography and advanced software. The resulting GIS-ready datasets provide natural resource professionals with the information they need for sustainable management of trees outside forests. Due to the absence of an inventory of trees outside forests, this resource is seldom included in state, regional, and national assessments. This void presents challenges for informed decision making in the sustainable management of these systems in the face of changing conditions.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Northern Research Station-Forest Inventory & Analysis
  • USDA National Agroforestry Center
  • Kansas Forest Service
  • Nebraska Forest Service
  • North Dakota Forest Service
  • South Dakota Division of Resource Conservation and Forestry
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • and Texas Forest Service