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Individual Highlight

Young Forest Habitat Health Studied in Northeast and Midwest

Photo of Golden-winged warbler in young forest habitat. Laura Erickson, Cornell UniversityGolden-winged warbler in young forest habitat. Laura Erickson, Cornell UniversitySnapshot : Young growth is becoming the new old growth! Early succession forests in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest now account for only 8 percent of total forests, becoming rare like old growth is in the West. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis scientists have begun studying many aspects of early-succession forests.

Principal Investigators(s) :
McWilliams, WilliamWestfall, Jim
Research Location : Northeast and Midwest USA
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 879


Over time, there has been a buildup of late-successional forest in the Northeast and Midwest that will soon start taking on old-growth characteristics. Today’s late succession and old-growth forests will eventually need replacement following major disturbances, such as catastrophic mortality; however, young forests have now become rare across the landscape. To address a lack of information on young forest habitat quality, the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program at the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station initiated a study to address questions about regeneration adequacy, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and pristineness to better characterize young forest. Research is ongoing and includes cooperation with state agencies, universities, and other Forest Service research projects. The study is important because early-succession forests are vital habitats for birds such as the golden-winged warbler, other wildlife, and unique resource values. Creating new young forests is challenging because of existing drivers and stressors that were not present when today’s older forests were established, such as invasive plants and pests, forest fragmentation, climate change, and deer over-browsing of tree seedlings. This information will inform forest managers, policymakers, and others tracking threats to the region’s early succession forests and help them make better plans and assessments of this critical resource.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Northern Research Station
  • University of Missouri

Program Areas