Research Projects

Optimized Management Strategies to Support Bioenergy Feedstock Yield and Ecosystem Services in Disturbed And Degraded Forest Ecosystems. Managing forest ecosystems for simultaneous provisioning of multiple ecosystem services is challenging.  Many forest systems show symptoms of degradation and loss of resiliency. We focus on two contrasting forest ecoregions- degraded Northeastern forests, and disturbed Northern Rockies forests, with shared challenges and opportunities for bioenergy production, traditional high-value forest products, climate regulation services, and wildlife habitat. The central aim of the Eco-Opt (Ecosystem Service Optimization) project is to co-develop decision support tools with forest managers to enhance forest health and resiliency in the context of multiple demands on forest ecosystems. Stakeholders, including tribal forest managers and tribal members, private forest owners and managers, consulting and extension foreconceptual dashboardsters, public natural resource agency staff, and bioenergy sector consumers of woody feedstocks will be engaged from the beginning to the end of the Eco-Opt project. Our overall goal is to conduct foundational research on the impacts of utilizing biomass energy feedstocks from degraded and disturbed forests on other ecosystem services, and to co-develop decision-making tools with land managers for optimizing tradeoffs between biomass energy feedstock production and other ecosystem services. The project will use existing forest inventory data to model the bioenergy potential of feedstocks derived from degraded and disturbed forests, while enhancing other ecosystem services. This project and its objectives are primarily focused on the Sustainable Agroecosystems: Functions, Processes and Management priority (A1401) within the Bioenergy, Natural Resources and the Environment program area of the USDA AFRI Foundational Program.  2019-2023

Collaborators: Dr. Ashley Ballantyne (Univ. of Montana), Dr. Mark Ducey (UNH), Dr. Thomas Buchholz (Univ. of Montana), and Robert Kenning (Salish Kootenai College)

Injapanese_knotweedvasive plant impacts on New Hampshire forest ecosystem services. Invasive non-native plants lead to significant financial and ecological damage to forest systems and are likely to increase in scale and severity under a warming New Hampshire climate. Ecosystem services such as timber product outputs and carbon sequestration can be influenced by non-native plant invasions and present challenges to forest managers. Outcomes of this project will provide a statewide assessment of the status and distribution of invasive plant species throughout New Hampshire that pose the greatest threat to forest systems. The project will also provide an evaluation and quantification of the stand- and landscape-level factors that increase forest resistance to colonization by invasive plants. Based on these factors, management best practice guidelines will be produced to help foresters and landowners minimize the risk of invasive plant species invasion into native forest stands.  This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, McIntire-Stennis Project #1010675 (2016-2019)

Science-based rehabilitation of New Hampshire’s forests through targeted outreach to landowners in key watersheds. More than a third of New Hampshire’s forests are in a degraded and understocked condition following widespread timber harvesting practices that did not consider the long-term value of the resource. This understocked condition presents economic challenges to current landowners and has implications for the supply of young and old forest habitat conditions for many songbird species that are in regional and global decline. NH forest stockingFurthermore, understocked and degraded forests are not being maximized for their important climate mitigation potential through the long-term storage of carbon. An analysis of forest management pathways for understocked stands will be done to understand how foresters and landowners might rehabilitate their property to conditions that meet a range of economic, wildlife habitat, and climate objectives. Existing inventory data from the US Forest Service and supplemental landowner specific data from our collaborating landowner will be used to model different management regimes. Results will be expressed in terms of the various management decisions that can be made and will highlight the implications for revenue, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage. Outcomes will be developed into communication materials for UNH Cooperative Extension forestry staff for use with landowners and foresters in workshops and one-on-one interactions in focal watersheds. Demonstration management activities will be implemented on our collaborator’s land to showcase the most effective practices. This work is supported by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s New England Forest and Rivers Fund (2017-2019). 

Related Publications:

Gunn, J.S., M.J. Ducey, and E. Belair. 2019. Evaluating forest degradation in a North American Temperate Forest. Forest Ecology and Management 432: 415-426.

Past Projects

Silvicultural Strategies for Mitigating Northern Forest Carbon Reversal Due To Spruce Budworm (SBW). The goal of this project is to provide concrete guidance on silvicultural options for mitigating an anticipated SBW outbreak in the Northern Forest region, with particular attention to the C consequences of those options and the risk of disturbance-initiated C reversal.  Supporting objectives include: 1) Develop prSBW_carbonojections of future forest and wood-in-use C pools for FIA plots and re-measured old-growth plots in the Northern Forest region, under alternative management strategies and SBW attack outcomes; 2) Evaluate the influence of initial stand conditions and probability of SBW attack on optimal C strategies and the tradeoffs associated with alternative choices; and, 3) Assess the carbon offset market transaction feasibility of implementing strategies for avoiding or mitigating SBW-associated C reversal. Lead PI is Dr. Mark Ducey (UNH). This work was supported by a grant from the Northeastern States Research Cooperative.

Related Publications:

Gunn, J.S., M. J. Ducey, T. Buchholz, and E. Belair. In Review. Forest Carbon Resilience of Eastern Spruce Budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana) Salvage Harvesting in the Northeastern United States.” Frontiers in Forests and Global Change.


Latest News

NSF grant awarded to develop framework to harness forest ecosystem integrity, resilience data

August 28, 2019

The Ecological Forestry Lab will be part of this great new NSF-funded collaboration between UMaine, UVM, and UNH. 

We'll be working on using complex data from regional forest inventories and growth an yield models to support decision-making for a range of ecosystem services (including timber and carbon)....

Read more about NSF grant awarded to develop framework to harness forest ecosystem integrity, resilience data