Top Ten of 2020

As 2020 comes to an end, it is a good time to gather our most-read CompassLive stories from the past year. Each one highlights the work of USDA Forest Service scientists at the Southern Research Station. We hope you enjoy reading this collection, which includes the most popular of 2020 plus a few more that…  More 

New Science Synthesis on Soils and Soil Management

We don’t often think about what’s underneath our feet, but soils are essential for the food we eat, building materials for our homes, the clean water we drink, storing carbon and mitigating climate change, even the air we breathe. Our health and well-being depend on healthy soils. It may be time to take a closer…  More 

Wildfire Recovery Hot Moments

Disasters can be catalysts for change. As wildfires become more common, an emerging objective is to make communities fire-adapted, where ecological benefits of fire can be realized while minimizing threats to life and property. Yet questions remain as to when and how such community change takes place. Recent research by Ronald Schumann of University of…  More 

QUIC-Fire: A Fast Tool for Prescribed Fire Planning

Predicting fire behavior is complicated. Current modeling tools work to balance the interplay between many different factors including weather conditions and vegetation structure. Yet these tools are often underutilized because they require high-performance computing resources. Rodman Linn from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, with expertise from SRS researchers Scott Goodrick and Joe O’Brien and additional…  More 

Dead Wood, Insects, and Fire

Dead wood is a secret harbor of biodiversity. About one-third of all insect species are saproxylic – or dependent upon dead wood – at some stage in their life cycle. The effects of common forest management practices on this important resource and the insects that use it are understudied, especially in subtropical climates. USDA Forest…  More 

Site Prep Tractors and Their Potential for Prescribed Fire

Site preparation (site prep) tractors are large-wheeled machines with mulcher head attachments. These machines can turn shrubs and small trees into wood chips and chunks. They are often used to control vegetation before a prescribed fire, improve wildlife habitat, or as a replacement for fire where the risk is too high. If site prep tractors…  More 

A Yearly Health Checkup for U.S. Forests

Every year, the USDA Forest Service Forest Health Monitoring (FHM) program tracks changing forest conditions, including national assessments as well as focused regional analysis. The resulting report is the only national summary of forest health undertaken on an annual basis. Forests constantly change as a result of tree growth and mortality, weather events and climate…  More 

Southern Forest Outlook: Synthesis of Regional Trends and Futures

The USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station and Southern Region, in partnership with the Southern Group of State Foresters, is leading an update to the Southern Forest Assessment Library, with a new regional assessment called the Southern Forest Outlook, or SFO. The SFO update will inform forest sector decision makers, partners, and the interested public…  More 

Photo Guide to Fuel Loads in the Southern Appalachians

A new photo guide shows fuel loads in the Southern Appalachian mountains. A team of four experts wrote the guide: Adam Coates, a professor at Virginia Tech; Tom Waldrop, a USDA Forest Service research forester who is now retired; Todd Hutchinson, a research ecologist at the Northern Research Station; and Helen Mohr, an SRS forester…  More 

Impact of Fire Management on Breeding Birds in the Southern Appalachians

To increase the prescribed “burn window” for reaching restoration goals, land managers are now burning during winter (the dormant season) as well as spring and summer (the growing season) and fall. Management goals often include fuel reduction, oak regeneration, habitat improvement for target wildlife species, and forest restoration to conditions once created by Native Americans…  More