Generalist No More

Although the Yazoo Darter (Etheostoma raneyi) was previously thought to be a habitat generalist able to thrive in a variety of conditions, U.S. Forest Service scientists Kenneth Sterling and Melvin Warren guessed differently. “Literature suggested the darter was a generalist, but details at small spatial scales were lacking for its sand-bottom stream habitat in the…  More 

Black Locust & Drought Tolerance

By affecting plant growth, drought could potentially affect the nitrogen cycle too. “Some plants – with help from their bacterial companions – can fix atmospheric nitrogen,” says U.S. Forest Service researcher and project leader Chelcy Miniat. Atmospheric nitrogen gas, or N2, is plentiful. This form of nitrogen is inaccessible to most plants. However, legumes such…  More 

Air, Water, and Wavelets

We know air temperature has increased over the last 15-20 years, and that it will continue to do so on an unprecedented scale. But we are still learning exactly how this air trend impacts water. As it turns out, air temperature is linked to changes in our streams — affecting things like flow, soil moisture,…  More 

Mountain Roads and Erosion

Forests on mountaintops may seem remote. “However, millions of people rely on these forested headwater watersheds for their drinking water,” says Johnny Grace. “For many people in the Southeastern U.S., high-elevation forests are where clean drinking water originates.” Grace is a general engineer at the U.S. Forest Service, and he recently studied forest roads and…  More 

Topography and Drought

The planet is changing, and the hydrologic cycle will change along with it. Extreme droughts – as well as extremely wet weather – are expected to become more frequent and more intense. “These changes may interact with topography to affect species composition in unexpected ways,” says Chelcy Miniat. Miniat is a researcher and project leader…  More 

Mangroves of Mozambique

Whether small and shrubby or tall and majestic, mangroves have an unusual ability – they are specially adapted to grow in brackish water, and can tolerate ocean waves lapping at their stilt-like roots. As stands mature, soil and decaying plant matter becomes captured in the intricate web of their roots. “The soil in mangrove ecosystems…  More 

Forests, Farms, or Houses?

Molecules relentlessly cycle from one form to another. “Simple human activities, such as building homes, can affect these cycles,” says U.S. Forest Service research soil scientist Jennifer Knoepp. For example, trees growing near streams affect the way nitrogen and other nutrients move from the land to the water. “Riparian zones play a critical role in…  More 

Stream Crossings and Water Quality

In many situations, the adage “dirt doesn’t hurt” is true. One important exception is when soils erode, and rain washes the sediments into streams. Johnny Boggs, a biological scientist with the U.S. Forest Service Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, recently led a study on preventing stream sedimentation in forests. Sedimentation impacts water quality and can…  More 

Switchgrass in Pine Plantations

In the southeastern U.S., loblolly pine plantations cover about 37 million acres of land. “Growing switchgrass in loblolly pine plantations could provide a sustainable source of biomass for cellulosic energy,” says U.S. Forest Service research hydrologist Devendra Amatya. “Growing the two species together could also help maintain the economic and environmental benefits of a forest…  More 

New Forest, New Water Yield

Today, forests abound in the southern Appalachians. However, there was a time in the early 1900s when many forests were harvested or cleared so that the land could be used to grow crops or provide pasture. “The forests that have returned may use water differently,” says U.S. Forest Service research ecologist Katherine Elliott. Elliott and…  More