Formidable Forest Shrubs Affect Tree Height and Biomass

Forests are made of three-dimensional life forms that constantly interact with each other and with the abiotic factors in their environment. A recent study shows how complex those interactions can be. “Trees growing within an evergreen shrub layer can be almost 20 feet shorter than trees without a shrub layer,” says USDA Forest Service scientist…  More 

Climate Drivers of Carbon Gain and Water Loss in a Southern Appalachian Forest

The planet is warming, and warmth revs the machinery of life. “As it gets warmer, living things burn up more carbon through respiration,” says USDA Forest Service scientist Chris Oishi. “It’s true of trees and soil microbes.” Soil is bursting with invertebrate life, microbial life, and living plant roots. It’s also where decomposers do their…  More 

Life after Hemlock: Restoring Riparian Forests in the Southern Appalachians

In the last decade, the hemlock woolly adelgid, a tiny sap-sucking insect native to Japan, has swept through southern Appalachian forests, leaving dead hemlocks in its wake. Hemlock branches no longer shade streams or tower over shrubs, and their loss has affected streamside, or riparian, forests. “Without hemlock, more sunlight reaches the forest floor,” says U.S.…  More 

Loss of Eastern Hemlock Will Affect Forest Water Use

Eastern hemlock grows in streamside areas throughout the southern Appalachian Mountains, where it is a keystone species. Because of its dense evergreen foliage, constant year-round transpiration (loss of water from needles) rate,  and dominance in riparian and cove habitats,  eastern hemlock plays an important role in the area’s water cycle, and regulates stream flow year…  More