Chapter 1 - IntroductionThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Forests cover a vast area of the United States, 304 million ha or approximately one-third of the Nation’s land area (Smith and others 2009). These forests possess the capacity to provide a broad range of goods and services to current and future generations, to safeguard biological diversity, and to contribute to the resilience of ecosystems, societies, and economies (USDA Forest Service 2011). Their ecological roles include supplying large and consistent quantities of clean water, preventing soil erosion, and providing habitat for a broad diversity of plant and animal species. Their socioeconomic benefits include wood products, nontimber goods, recreational opportunities, and pleasing natural beauty. Both the ecological integrity and the continued capacity of these forests to provide ecological and economic goods and services are of concern, however, in the face of a long list of threats, including insect and disease infestation, fragmentation and forest conversion to other land uses, catastrophic fire, invasive species, and the effects of climate change.