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Individual Highlight

Big Changes Ahead Expected for Northern Forests

Photo of The 20 States bounded by Maine, Maryland, Missouri and Minnesota comprise the most heavily forested and most densely populated quadrant of the United States.  This landscape view from southern Maine illustrates the beauty of those forests and the uniformity of the forest age structure.  That uniformity is a potential problem because it means northern forests lack diversity and resilience. Dan Dey, USDA Forest ServiceThe 20 States bounded by Maine, Maryland, Missouri and Minnesota comprise the most heavily forested and most densely populated quadrant of the United States. This landscape view from southern Maine illustrates the beauty of those forests and the uniformity of the forest age structure. That uniformity is a potential problem because it means northern forests lack diversity and resilience. Dan Dey, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Northern Forests, those in the 20 states bounded by Maine, Maryland, Missouri, and Minnesota, are in for some big changes in the next 50 years. Research under the Forest Service's Northern Forest Futures Project is identifying the drivers of forest change and projected patterns of change over the next 50 years. Forest Inventory and analysis data projected into the future provide new insights into anticipated trends that will require the attention of policy makers and resource managers.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Shifley, Stephen R. 
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 643

Summary

"Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter forest conditions and management needs in the Northern United States" was recently published by the journal Forest Science and is part of the Northern Forest Futures Project, an effort led by Forest Service researchers to forecast forest conditions in a 20-state region extending from Maine to Minnesota and from Missouri to Maryland. The five factors identified in the study are: (1) Northern forests lack age-class diversity and therefore lack resilience to natural disturbances. (2) Forest land area will decrease by about 13 million acres as a consequence of expanding urban areas. (3) Invasive species will alter forest density, diversity, and function. The U.S. North has particularly high concentrations of invasive forest species. (4) Management intensity for timber is low in Northern forests and likely to remain so, which reduces options for addressing perceived problems with forest health, diversity, or resilience. (5) Management for non-timber objectives , like wildlife habitat, will gain relevance but will be challenging to implement. Thoughtful, collaborative action by policy makers, resource managers, and forest owners will be required to avoid negative consequences associated with these forces of change in the short term, and within a context of changing climate patterns in the long term.

Additional Resources

Northern Forest Futures Project(external web site)

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Brett Butler
  • David Nowak
  • Mark Nelson
  • Pat Miles
  • W. Keith Moser
  • Dr. Brian Tavernia, USGS, Patuxent, MD.
  • Dr. Francisco Aguilar, University of Missouri-Columbia
  • Dr. Ryan DeSantis, University of California Cooperative Extension