Webinar on December 9: Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention

Insights from rapid appraisal research

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African American rural land ownership has declined significantly over the past 100 years, threatening critical family and community assets. The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service and Natural Resource Conservation Service, seeks to address this problem through the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program.

A team of social scientists, including John Schelhas, research forester with the Forest Service Southern Research Station, recently completed baseline qualitative research in association with this program, using findings from over 60 in-person interviews with African American forest owners at pilot sites in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Alabama.

Results from this study provide insights into the history, current circumstances, and goals of African American land ownership and forest management. These insights will enhance understanding and inform outreach efforts aimed at accelerating an emerging trend for African American landowners to return to forestry as a sound, land-based business strategy.

Access webinar information here.

For more information, email John Schelhas at jschelhas@fs.fed.us

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Posted in Economics & Policy, Ethics & Values, Forest Landowners, Restoration

Forest Service Scientist Makes Tracks with Science Sprouts

by Zoё Hoyle, SRS Science Delivery Group
Amira Hargrove explores fossils at the Colburn Museum in Asheville, North Carolina. Photo by Bill Hargrove.

Amira Hargrove explores fossils at the Colburn Museum in Asheville, North Carolina. Photo by Bill Hargrove.

The first week of November found U.S. Forest Service scientist Bill Hargrove  making tracks through the Colburn Earth Science Museum in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dinosaur tracks, that is, and he wasn’t the only one making them.

Hargrove, research ecologist with the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, led seven second-grade Science Sprouts on a journey into the Mesozoic Era, the period some 65 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

“My seven-year-old daughter Amira is a rock hound, and has gone to classes at Colburn since first grade,” said Hargrove. “I was there with her one time and I started discussing their fossil collection and identifying some of their specimens. Next thing I know, I’m invited to teach the Sprouts about fossils and dinosaurs.”

Fossils of dinosaur tracks allow scientists to make assumptions about how they moved—whether they walked on two legs or four, for instance.

“We rolled out paper and then dunked our hands and feet in paint to simulate dinosaur trackways,” said Hargrove. “We made bipedal tracks and then got down on hands and knees to make four-legged tracks. Then we compared what we made to fossilized theropod and sauropod trackways at the museum.”

Making tracks like a quadrupedal dinosaur. Photo by Bill Hargrove.

Making tracks like a quadrupedal dinosaur. Photo by Bill Hargrove.

Each student also got to excavate their own fossil out of a plaster of Paris matrix, compare a cut ammonite fossil with a cut shell from a chambered nautilus, examine insects preserved in amber, and look at a wide range of fossils.

“The students really liked the Megalodon and Carcharodon shark teeth and hearing about Leviathan melvillei that actually ate blue whales,” said Hargrove. “They also liked the fossil of the Orthoceras, a long extinct straight-shell ammonite, they were given to take home. Most of these kids started in the first grade as rock hounds, and all of them have rock collections.”

For more information, email Bill Hargrove at whargrove@fs.fed.us

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Harvesting Southern Pines for Bioenergy: Potential Impacts on Soil

by Sarah Farmer, SRS Science Delivery Group
11.25. loblolly pine stand herbicides by JimMiller Bugwood

Loblolly pine stand treated with herbicide to control other vegetation. Photo by Jim Miller, courtesy of Bugwood.org.

Soils are the foundation of the forested ecosystem, producing timber and clean water while supporting biodiversity and storing carbon. A new study led by U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientist D. Andrew Scott examines how harvesting for bioenergy affects soil ecosystem services in loblolly pine plantations.

Many southern pine stands are being harvested more frequently and more intensively to produce bioenergy. However, the potential impacts on soil are unclear, and there are few management guidelines to ensure that soils are able to continue providing ecosystem services.

Scott, a research soil scientist with SRS Southern Pine Ecology and Management unit, and his colleagues measured stand volume, soil carbon storage, and woody plant biodiversity on 13 sites across Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas.

The sites are part of an international Long-Term Soil Productivity Study, a network of experiments that evaluate the effect of soil characteristics on plant growth. The paper was recently published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal.

Fallen dead trees and branches, stumps, and trees usually too small to be harvested for timber can all be useful for producing bioenergy. To determine whether removing large amounts of organic material affected soil productivity, the scientists used a range of harvest intensities in the study sites – from harvesting only the stems of mature trees to removing all organic matter above the mineral layer.

“In some sites that were intensively harvested and already nutrient-poor, there were temporary reductions in growth,” says Scott. “But overall, it seems harvesting had limited and site-specific effects on timber volume production.” Scott and his colleagues also measured soil carbon storage and woody plant diversity, and found them relatively unaffected by biomass harvesting.

Harvesting also packs soil particles more closely together, causing compaction. “When we began the study, we suspected that soil compaction would limit tree growth,” says Scott. “We were surprised to find that stand volume was highest in the sites with more soil compaction.”

The researchers also studied the effects of herbicide use. Many landowners and managers use herbicides to keep grasses, shrubs, and unwanted trees from competing with pine, and although controlling unwelcome plants isn’t necessarily a part of harvesting, it could affect forest soil ecosystem services of wildlife habitat and stand volume.

The scientists found that herbicide vegetation control had the biggest impacts on pine growth. On some sites, there were major increases in tree growth. For example, in the North Carolina sites, there was a 46 percent increase in the average stand volume on sites where competing vegetation was controlled.

Forest soils provide a host of ecosystem services, and although intensive harvesting may cause short-term decreases in timber production, there were only minor changes to soil ecosystem services after harvests.

“Biomass harvesting appears to have had very minor effects on these stands,” says Scott. “Our study suggests that soils in southern pine stands will continue providing ecosystem services even where biomass harvesting occurs.”

Read the full text of the article.

For more information, email Andy Scott at andyscott@fs.fed.us.

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Posted in Biomass and Bioenergy, Forest Operations, Forest Products, Southern Pines