Center For Forest Disturbance Science (SRS RWU 4156)

The Center for Forest Disturbance Science is a research project of the US Forest Service Southern Research Station focused on the study of disturbance processes across scales and their risk of occurrence in order to develop innovative management strategies for reducing vulnerability of ecosystems to degradation.

News and Events

2018 ESRI Award for Best Scientific Paper in Geographic Information Systems

Marcus Williams

Marcus Williams, research meteorologist, and Christie Hawley, forest technician, with the Center For Forest Disturbance Science and their partners with the University of Georgia have been recognized as the first place recipients of the 2018 ESRI Award for Best Scientific Paper in Geographic Information Systems by the Imaging and Geospatial Information Society. This study, Mapping the Spatio-Temporal Evolution of Irrigation in the Coastal Plain of Georgia, USA, maps the spatial and temporal evolution of acres irrigated in the coastal plain of Georgia over a 38 year period and at a sub-county scale.

Don’t Forget the Soil Fauna

Proturans are tiny (under 2 mm long) invertebrates that inhabit the soil.

When U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station research ecologist Mac Callaham and post-doctoral researcher David Coyle, D.B. Warnell School of Forest Resources, were teaching a class together at the University of Georgia, they decided to involve their students in writing a manuscript. The paper aimed to call attention to a subject that in recent years has received too little love from the scientific community: soil fauna and how various kinds of environmental disturbances affected soil invertebrates.

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Drier Weather, Drier Fuels

Person setting a prescribed fire

Dry weather – and huge wildfires – are common. “Climate change would modify fuel moisture and wildland fires dramatically across the United States,” says Yongqiang Liu. Liu is a U.S. Forest Service research meteorologist who recently investigated climate impacts on fuel moisture. His study was published in the journal Ecohydrology.

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Bumblebees and Blueberries

The common Eastern bumblebee is one of 46 native bumblebee species in the U.S. Photo by Sam Droege, USGS.

Flowering plants and pollinators depend on each other. It’s a global truism, and it’s true on a 440 acre blueberry farm in northern Florida.

“Bumblebees are extremely efficient pollinators,” says U.S. Forest Service research ecologist Joseph O’Brien. “In the time it takes a honeybee to pollinate a single blueberry flower, a bumblebee can pollinate as many as six.”

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Spring Break Fire Training

Students and fire crew head into the woods at the Savannah River Site. Photo courtesy of Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.

Setting a forest on fire is not what you would call a typical a spring break activity. Sixteen graduate and undergraduate students from the University of Georgia (UGA) did just that during a course in wildland fire science at Savannah River Ecology Lab at the Savannah River Site in Georgia.

The course, Wildland Fire, is the first of its kind at UGA and was developed and taught by U.S. Forest Service SRS research ecologist Joe O’Brien and forester Ben Hornsby, along with UGA Warnell School of Forestry faculty Doug Aubrey.

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Oaks, an Unrecognized Ally in Longleaf Pine Restoration

The shade that midstory oaks provide can alleviate water stress and facilitate longleaf pine seedling survival. Photo by Louise Loudermilk, USFS.

Longleaf pine ecosystems are among the most threatened in the U.S., and managers across the southeast are prioritizing longleaf restoration. The conventional approach calls for removing hardwood trees such as oak.

“Hardwood reduction techniques are commonly deemed necessary for ecological restoration of longleaf pine ecosystems,” says U.S. Forest Service research ecologist Louise Loudermilk. “Hardwoods are presumed competitors with longleaf pine seedlings.”

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Grant to Clemson University Supports CAFMS Outreach

CAFMs promotes communication among forest managers and scientists about using prescribed fire as a management tool in the Appalachian region that stretches from Pennsylvania to Alabama. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Although fires have roared through the Appalachian Mountains devouring thousands of acres since October, a Clemson University professor wants people to understand not all fires are bad.

Rob Baldwin, a forestry and environmental conservation professor, has received a three-year grant for $216,000 from the U.S. Forest Services to develop outreach activities for the Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers and Scientists (CAFMS).

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Into the Rhizosphere: Soil Fungi and Carbon Dynamics

Many tree species rely on mycorrhizal fungi to help them get water and nutrients. The relationship between trees and fungi also affects carbon dynamics in the soil. Photo by Melanie Taylor, U.S. Forest Service.

Underneath the Earth’s surface, water, nutrients, and chemical signals are shuttled through a sprawling network between tree roots and soil fungi. “Many forest trees depend on their associated soil fungi for nutrients, as the fungi are better at absorbing nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients,” says U.S. Forest Service ecologist Melanie Taylor. “The trees return the favor by sharing their sugars with the fungi.”

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Earthworms, Millipedes and Soil Carbon in the Eastern U.S.

Scientists look for earthworms, millipedes, and other soil macroinvertebrates in the thick layer of partially decomposed leaf litter at the soil surface. The photo was taken in the Bartlett Experimental Forest, New Hampshire, where no invasive earthworms were found. Photo by Evelyn Wenk, U.S. Forest Service.

Ubiquitous in the southeastern U.S., native earthworms are absent from the northern part of the country. It wasn’t always so, but tens of thousands of years ago glaciers crept across the land, and earthworms below them froze to death. Because earthworms are slow travelers, they have not naturally recolonized the areas where glaciers were present.

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The Guide to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems

Prescribed burning is FIRE “applied in a skillful manner, under exacting weather conditions, in a definite place, to achieve specific results.”

Printed on the inside cover of the Introduction to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems, the sentence sets the tone for the revised guide developed by U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists Tom Waldrop and Scott Goodrick and published by SRS in 2012.

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June 23, 2016 on CompassLive

Studying Woody Biomass for Energy Across the U.S.

Non-traditional equipment is tested for harvesting small trees as an energy crop. The red attachment is a sheer felling head, and allows the skidsteer to accumulate several small stems at a time. Photo by Dana Mitchell, U.S. Forest Service.

Five U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists – John Stanturf, Emile Gardiner, Leslie Groom, Dana Mitchell and James Perdue – recently contributed to four review articles that were part of a special issue of the journal BioEnergy Research. SRS researchers collaborated on the journal articles with scientists and engineers from a number of universities and other agencies, including the Forest Service Northern Research Station, Pacific Northwest Research Station, and Forest Products Laboratory, as well as the USDA Agricultural Research Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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June 23, 2016 on CompassLive

The Future of Fire in the South

Prescribed fire in Coastal Plain flatwoods. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

In the U.S., most of the focus is on the catastrophic fires that regularly sweep across the western states, but wildfires actually occur more frequently in the Southeast, where rapid vegetation growth and fuel accumulation combine with frequent ignitions from lightning and humans. The South leads the nation in annual occurrences of wildfire, averaging approximately 45,000 wildfires per year. Continued population growth in the South increases the potential threat that wildfires pose to life and property. In addition, forestry and forestry related-industry represent a significant portion of the region’s economy, making each wildfire a potential loss to a local economy.

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April 14, 2016 on CompassLive

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Center for Forest Disturbance Science (SRS RWU 4156)

University of Georgia
Forestry Sciences Laboratory
320 Green Street
Athens, GA 30602

Clemson University
233 Lehotsky Hall
Clemson, SC 29634