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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Priority Areas

  • Forest Inventory and Analysis
  • Localized Needs (regional work)


The sites listed below are external or third-party sites which the Forest Service has provided for reference only.

Kurt Riitters

Kurt Riitters

Research Ecologist
P.O. Box 12254
3041 Cornwallis Road
Research Triangle Park
North Carolina
United States

Phone: 919-549-4015
Contact Kurt Riitters

Current Research

  • Develop new approaches to measure, evaluate and predict landscape and forest spatial patterns and their implications for resource management. Current research focuses on multi-scale approaches from image processing and mathematical morphology.
  • Conduct regional-to-global scale assessments of landscape patterns including forest fragmentation in support of United States commitments to national and international environmental reporting. Current research supports the United States Resource Planning Act (RPA), the international Montreal Process (MPCI), and various other governmental and non-governmental assessment processes.
  • Develop approaches to harmonize landscape pattern assessment and management across disciplinary, legal, and scale boundaries. Current research focuses on national and international harmonization of status and trends indicators for forest, range, agriculture, and urban systems estimated from satellite imagery and land-cover maps.
  • Research Interests

    Landscape ecology.

    Spatial pattern analysis.

    Quantitative ecology.

    Past Research

    Kurt Riitters is a research ecologist and member of the Forest Health Monitoring Team within the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, as well as Adjunct Professor of Forestry at North Carolina State University. He joined the USDA Forest Service Forest Health Monitoring Program in 2000 after fifteen years of research in  quantitative forest ecology and management, monitoring, and assessment with three Federal Agencies and in forest industry. He has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles (22 with more than 100 citations each) along with many Forest Service and other agency reports and book chapters, and has received awards for pioneering research in landscape ecology. His current research focus is on national- to global-scale assessments of landscape patterns from remotely sensed land-cover maps, and his work has appeared in many environmental reports including the Millennium Assessment, the Official Atlas of the United States, and the State of the Nation's Ecosystems. He is the USDA Forest Service national leader of landscape pattern and forest fragmentation research for the Resource Planning Act (RPA) and Sustainability (Montreal Process) assessments. He serves on the editorial board of the journal Landscape Ecology. He is past President of the United States Chapter of the International Association for Landscape Ecology, and past Deputy Chairman for North America for the Landscape Ecology Working Group of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations. He received the Distinguished Landscape Ecologist award from the United States Chapter of the International Association for Landscape Ecology.

    Why This Research is Important

    The assessments produced by this research satisfy legislated and agency requirements for national and international monitoring and reporting of the status and trends of forest conditions nationwide.

    The tools and techniques developed by this research permit satisfying the above goal in a timely and efficient manner. Furthermore, the deployment of developed software in freely-available applications and on cloud-based computing platforms has allowed everyone to use the same research and assessment methods.

    The basic research in quantitative landscape ecology develops insights to prioritize particular tools and techniques for development.


    • Oregon State University, Ph.D. Forest Science (Silviculture) 1986
    • University of Minnesota, M.F. Forest Management 1978
    • University of Minnesota, B.E.S. Elected Studies 1976

    Professional Experience

    • Various, Various
      1983 - Current
      Kurt Riitters' research experience has been with four Federal Agencies and private industry.

    Featured Publications & Products


    Research Highlights


    Do roads drive forest plant invasions?

    Roads provide a means for moving people and products, but they can also allow hitchhiking organisms to spread. Some exotic invasive plants thriv ...


    Evaluating the Health of the Nation’s Forests

    “So, how are the trees doing?” For more than a decade, forest monitoring professionals have been answering that question in an informative s ...


    Family forests are the ties that bind the landscape

    Family forests have an enormous capacity to provide ecosystem services such as clean air and water, timber and nontimber forest products, wildli ...


    Forest Service software goes global

    Originally intended to foster and support U.S.-European harmonization of forest assessments required for the Montreal Process and the Food and A ...


    Landscape Pattern Analysis Reveals Global Loss of Interior Forest

    Between 2000 and 2012, the world lost more forest area than it gained, according to researchers who estimated a global net loss of more than 660 ...


    Last updated on : 01/11/2022