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Individual Highlight

Using a Landscape Model for Planning Red Spruce Restoration in West Virginia

Photo of Changes in age classes for red spruce and red spruce-northern hardwood forest types combined for a section of the study area (about 13,000 acres) at three time steps. Melissa Thomas-Van Gundy, USDA Forest ServiceChanges in age classes for red spruce and red spruce-northern hardwood forest types combined for a section of the study area (about 13,000 acres) at three time steps. Melissa Thomas-Van Gundy, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : A new Forest Service model was developed to answer specific questions about meeting restoration goals for red spruce while protecting habitat for the Virginia northern flying squirrel. The patch cuts modeled in this experiement were designed to be close to the intended restoration actions. The harvests modeled show that hands-off approaches to threatened or endangered species habitat can delay progress on restoration goals in this red spruce-dominated landscape.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa 
Research Location : Monongahela National forest, West Virginia
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 614

Summary

Active restoration of threatened or endangered species habitat may seem in conflict with the provisions of the Endangered Species Act because of the act's prohibition of "take," which can include habitat modification as well as death or harm to individuals of the species. Risk-averse managers may choose to forego active management in known or presumed endangered species habitat to avoid killing any individuals or harming their critical habitat. Forest Service researchers used an existing landscape-scale model (LANDIS-II) to determine if restoration goals for red spruce forests could be met with forest management while still protecting habitat for the Virginia northern flying squirrel. Only one type of harvest was modeled, with the alternatives differing in how potential habitat for Virginia northern flying squirrel was protected. The active management modeled shows that hands-off approaches to threatened or endangered species habitat can delay progress on restoration goals in this red spruce-dominated landscape. Study of the harvests as modeled (size, rate of entry, proportion of area harvested) showed that some restoration goals cannot be met in 100 years. These results suggest that given current land management constraints, red spruce restoration goals may be unrealistic and alternative strategies should be developed.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Brain Sturtevant, NRS 13
  • Monongahela National forest, West Virginia