FIA Starts Third Inventory of U.S. Virgin Island Forests

The FIA crew collecting data on down woody material during the training session on St. John. From front to back: Ivan Vicens, Joey Williamson, Angie Rowe, Luis Ortiz, and Terry Riley.
The FIA crew collecting data on down woody material during the training session on St. John. From front to back: Ivan Vicens, Joey Williamson, Angie Rowe, Luis Ortiz, and Terry Riley.

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service started the process of revisiting permanent monitoring plots established in 2004 in the forests of St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix as part of a recurring effort to measure and monitor the public and private forest land of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Led by Luis Ortiz-López from the Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) unit, an expert team of biological scientists will take the inventory,  including Iván Vicéns-Jiménez from the Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)  and Joey Robert Williamson, an entomologist from the University of the Virgin Islands working for IITF.

Information from the inventory is used on a continuing basis to assess the sustainability of forest management practices, evaluate wildlife habitat, chart the effects of hurricanes and other disturbances, and support forest planning and decision-making.

Researchers expect the inventory of Virgin Island forests to take from six to eight months. FIA and collaborators began the inventory of Virgin Island forests in 2004 and completed a second assessment in 2009. Scientists re-measure the monitoring plots every five years to track changes in forest cover, land use patterns, biological diversity, and hurricane damage and recovery. The U.S. Virgin Islands forest inventory is part of the larger 85-year effort by FIA to collect, analyze, and report information on the status and trends of America’s forests.

The National Park Service (NPS), which plays an instrumental role in forest management in the U.S. Virgin Islands, provided logistics in the training for those taking the inventory on St. John at the Virgin Islands National Park from August 19 – 21. The training was led by FIA supervisory forester Angie Rowe and included the participation of FIA forester Terry Riley as part of the data quality assurance and quality control team.

The training session included classroom presentations, field practices within monitoring plots, and assessments on data collection skills. These are used on a regular basis by the FIA program as tools for the review of consistent field data collection procedures and to ensure that the highest standards of field data quality are met.

“Recurring forest inventories with permanent field plots are especially important for the Caribbean, where there’s a high reliance on ecosystem services and pressing needs for anticipating the potential impacts of climate change,” said Humfredo Marcano-Vega, FIA research biologist and resource analyst for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “The forest inventory brings together information on the current situation and recent trends that managers and others can use to support collaborative and participatory approaches to managing the forests of the Virgin Islands under future conditions.”

After the forest surveys are completed, FIA will release the information in a report published by the Southern Research Station in 2016 and available then online through TreeSearch. The information will also be available at the FIA website by September 2015.

Reports on the previous inventories:

U.S. Virgin Islands’ Forests, 2009

The Status of U.S. Virgin Islands’ Forests, 2004

For more information, email Humfredo Marcano-Vega at hmarcano@fs.fed.us

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