Monitoring the sustainability of the Southern forestThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
The ecological and economic sustainability of southern forests is being questioned because there are many competing uses for these forests and because there are large regional shifts in forest land use. To adequately understand the state of our forests and their use with respect to sustainability, several significant changes have been made in programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) and Forest Health Monitoring Research Work Units. These changes are enabling these units to better assess the status of and sustainability of our forests. The FIA Program has replaced the 70-year-old periodic forest survey sampling design with a continuous annual sampling program. The new sampling design provides for continuous monitoring and reporting, with the emphasis on current status and trends in forest resources and many of the criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management as identified by the Montreal Process. The program is a collaborative partnership among the Southern State forestry agencies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station. The process used to develop the new annual forest inventory program has provided the opportunity to build stronger partnerships with State forestry agencies, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and the forest industry. These new and renewed partnerships are of considerable value in defining, interpreting, and reporting on criteria and indicators related to sustainable forestry. Recent collaborative research has produced methods for estimating forest area and area change from satellite imagery, initiatives on how to quantify and report nontimber forest products, and potential uses of remote sensing instruments for on-plot measurements; e.g., global positioning system units, lasers, and camera systems.