US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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At the Grand Rapids Forestry Science Lab

Brian J. Palik, PhD

Science Leader for Applied Forest Ecology
1831 Hwy 169 East
Grand Rapids
United States

Phone: 218-326-7116
Contact Brian J. Palik, PhD

Current Research

My research has two central themes:
  • Adaptating forests to an uncertain climate future
  • Ecological silviculture based on natural models
  • Both of these themes are addressed primarily through use of operational-scale management experiments designed to be statistically robust, realistic, but also novel in terms of the treatments examined, and inclusive of a large number of response variables. Much of this work is accomplished through close collaboration with university and agency researchers from across the nation. My particular research foci include questions related to plant biodiversity and community composition, tree regeneration dynamics, and forest productivity. I am interested in tradeoffs between productivity (biomass, volume) and sustainability of other ecological characteristics (e.g., native species diversity and habitat). Ultimately, my interest is in developing and evaluating silvicultural and management approaches that sustain ecological function in managed forests.

    Research Interests

    Specific research interests include:
    1. Adaptation approaches for wetland black ash forests in the face of emerald ash borer and climate change
    2. Adaptive silviculture for climate change (ASCC) in red pine ecosystems--as part of the national ASCC network
    3. Assisted migration of future climate adapted tree species in operational forestry settings
    4. Thinning/stocking strategies to mitigate impacts of growing season drought
    5. Developing a mechanistic understanding of variable retention harvesting and variable density thinning in red pine ecosystems
    6. Formalizing an ecological approach to silviculture

    Youngquist, Melissa B.; Eggert, Sue L.; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Palik, Brian J.; Slesak, Robert A. 2017. Potential effects of foundation species loss on wetland communities: A case study of black ash wetlands threatened by emerald ash borer. Wetlands. 37(4): 787-799. ​

    Nagel, Linda M.; Palik, Brian J.; Battaglia, Michael A. ; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Guldin, James M.; Swanston, Christopher W.; Janowiak, Maria K.; Powers, Matthew P.; Joyce, Linda A.; Millar, Constance I.; Peterson, David L.; Ganio, Lisa M.; Kirschbaum, Chad; Roske, Molly R. 2017. Adaptive silviculture for climate change: a national experiment in manager-scientist partnerships to apply an adaptation framework. Journal of Forestry. 115. 12 p.

    Muller, Jacob J.; Nagel, Linda M.; Palik, Brian J. 2019. Forest adaptation strategies aimed at climate change: Assessing the performance of future climate-adapted tree species in a northern Minnesota pine ecosystem. Forest Ecology and Management. 451: 117539.

    Bottero, Alessandra; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Palik, Brian J.; Bradford, John B.; Fraver, Shawn; Battaglia, Mike A.; Asherin, Lance A.; Bugmann, Harald. 2017. Density-dependent vulnerability of forest ecosystems to drought. Journal of Applied Ecology. 106:605-614.

    Palik, Brian J., D’Amato, Anthony W. 2019. Variable retention harvesting in Great Lakes mixed-pine forests: emulating a natural model in managed ecosystems. Ecological Processes. 8(1): 16.
    Palik, Brian J.; D'Amato, Anthony W. 2017. Ecological forestry: Much more than retention harvesting. Journal of Forestry. 115(1): 51-53.

    Past Research

    Some of my past research efforts include:
    1. Quantifying disturbances and regeneration processes in longleaf pine woodlands
    2. Multi-scale interactions between seasonal wetlands and upland forests
    3. Approaches for sustaining functional riparian forests
    4. Quantifying natural disturbance regimes in red pine ecosystems

    Why This Research is Important

    My research on black ash forest response to emerald ash borer and climate change is novel in the research community, as it uses whole-ecosystem manipulation based on natural forest dynamics, as well as stand-scale emulation of EAB mortality.  It is important because results contribute to guidelines and strategies aimed at pre-emptive management of this vast forest type in the face of these threats.

    My work on climate adaptation approaches in red pine forests is novel in the research community globally, because it combines long-term silivcultural experiments with large-scale, whole-ecosystem manipulations to examine a wide range of response variables.  This research is important because results are used to help stakeholders develop expectations and approaches for climate change adaptation.

    My work on assisted migration of tree species in operational management experiments is novel globally.  It is important because managers need real world information on species choice and expectations for performance.   

    My work on natural forest disturbance and development in both longleaf pine and red pine ecosystems has advanced our fundamental understanding of how these forest work.  This research is important because it contributes to models for ecological silviculture aimed at sustaining ecosystem function in managed forests.

    My formulation of an ecological approach to silviculture based on natural models is the first of its kind globally.  It is important because increasingly stakeholders are charged with managing forest for timber in ways that ensure sustainability of ecosystems broadly.


    • Michigan State University, Department of Forestry, Ph.D. Forest Ecology. 1992
    • Michigan State University, Department of Botany, M.S. Plant Ecology. 1988
    • Alma College, B.S. Biology. 1983
    • Costa Rica, Organization for Tropical Studies, Additional Study Tropical Ecology 1987

    Professional Experience

    • Adjunct Faculty, University of Minnesota
    • Adjunct Faculty, Iowa State University
    • Adjunct Faculty, Michigan Technological University
    • Adjunct Faculty, Lakehead University

    Professional Organizations

    • IUFRO Uneven-Age Silivculture Working Group, Member
    • Society of American Foresters (SAF), Member
    • The Forest Stewards Guild, Member

    Awards & Recognition

    • National Silviculture Research Award, 2019
    • Forest Service Eastern Region Honor Award, 2017
    • Northern Research Station Technology Transfer Award, 2007
    • Presidential Early Career Award, 1998
    • Chief's Early Career Scientist Award, 1997

    Featured Publications & Products


    Research Highlights


    Adapting Black Ash Wetlands to Emerald Ash Borer and Climate Change

    Black ash is a foundational species in the vast wetland forests of the upper Midwest. Loss of black ash from emerald ash borer will profoundly c ...


    Assisted Migration of Replacement Tree Species in Black Ash Wetlands

    Black ash is a foundational species of deciduous wetland forests in the western Great Lakes region because of its considerable influence on wetl ...


    Building Forests That are Adapted to Drought

    Climate change models predict increased summer droughts throughout much of the United States. Forest Service scientists are showing that silvicu ...


    Diversity is Key to Restoring Resilience of Iconic Great Lakes Pine Forests

    Mixed-pine forests of the western Great Lakes region contain fewer tree species and fewer age classes than their historical equivalents. Forest ...


    Ecological Limits to Biomass Harvesting

    Removing forest biomass for fuel can provide an alternative to fossil fuels and may mitigate atmospheric carbon dioxide increases, but it may ch ...


    Ecosystem Impacts of Wood Harvests For Biofuel

    Current interest in harvesting typically non-merchantable material for biofuel warrants a closer look at the ecosystem impacts of intensive harv ...


    First Textbook on Ecological Silviculture Serves as Blueprint for the Next Generation of Forestry

    Ecological silviculture is an approach for managing forests based on emulation of natural forest dynamics to sustain the myriad of services fore ...


    Restoring Forest Landscapes

    An estimated 1 billion acres of globally degraded forest are in need of restoration today and climate change likely will drive more acres into t ...


    The Future of Ash Forests in Minnesota

    Ash forests of the Great Lakes region are vulnerable to emerald ash borer (EAB) and climate change. Forest Service scientists are successfully e ...


    Last updated on : 01/20/2022