NHAES Inspired Forestry Report, Winter 2023

NHAES INSPIRED Forestry Report, Winter 2023

New Hampshire is a state where forests abound. Close to 80 percent of the Granite State is covered by forest, serving as the lifeblood for plants, animals, people and communities alike.

The research briefs in this report cover a diverse set of issues and exciting opportunities for managing forests in the Granite State and northern New England. The topics include exploring management strategies to best integrate agricultural and forestry practices, gaining a better understanding of beech bark disease, assessing the viability of producing alternative syrups, using new aerial technologies for more cost-effectively measuring changes in forested lands, to name just a few.

Read and download a pdf version of the entire publication, or check out the individual INSPIRED Forestry research articles. And sign up for the NHAES newsletter to receive the latest updates on future editions of the INSPIRED research report.

Inspired winter 2023 research report

Research Inside  

The conversion of forests to agricultural land can have negative environmental consequences, such as increasing greenhouse gas emissions and decreasing the land’s resilience to disturbances due to extreme weather events. Agroforestry—the practice of planting trees and other woody plants with crops and/or livestock—may increase the climate mitigation potential of the land and its adaptive capacity.

A series of analyses using U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis National Program data highlighted opportunities aimed at improving regional timber productivity and value by focusing on better species composition and individual tree quality. As part of these analyses, balsam fir (abies balsamea) was classified as a tertiary species, instead of a more desirable primary or secondary species. This research sought to identify reasons for this classification and provide recommendations for land managers based on these reasons.

Syrup production is an important agroforestry system in which sugarbushes—forests managed for syrup production—are actively managed to ensure large, healthy, sap-producing species such as sugar maple. While syrup is most commonly produced from maples, other types of trees can also be used. Novel syrups from birch and beech trees, for example, provide consumers with new flavors and new economic opportunities for producers. This research examines the potential for alternative syrup production in New England.

Beech bark disease (BBD) is a widespread cankering disease of American beech (Fagus grandifolia) caused by invasive felted beech scale insects feeding on the trees and the subsequent infection by specific fungal pathogens. Despite over a century of research on this important forest disease, scientists still lack a precise understanding of the contributions of two fungal pathogens to the progression of the disease and the role of the felted beech scale in initiating BBD.

Climate change is expected to bring a warmer, wetter and more variable climate to the Northeast, including more frequent and severe droughts. Despite the potential wide-ranging implications of drought on forest health and ecosystem services, little is known about the capacity of different northeastern tree species to respond, adapt to and survive. This study considered how dominant tree species vary in their sensitivity and response to moderate and extreme drought.

Cost-effective ways to assess the health and composition of the state’s significant forestland are necessary for supporting long-term management and economic needs. However, traditional forest inventorying methods are resource intensive and may not support a full understanding of dynamic disturbances, such as climate change or invasive forest pests, pathogens and plants. This research considers whether new technologies such as unpiloted aerial systems can help overcome the limitations of traditional assessment methods and provide more informative characterizations of northeastern forests.

An outcome of continued urban growth in New England is the fragmentation of landscapes, which has led to increasing challenges in sustaining local biodiversity and ecosystem services. Development across the Granite State has created challenges and questions around biodiversity and ecosystem changes at forest edges. This research used rapidly emerging UAS technologies to estimate foliage cover and then characterize and measure changes in forest structure near forested edges.

Upcoming spaceborne synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) missions—like the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission—promise frequent monitoring of the Earth’s surface, with high-resolution images regardless of cloud cover and other weather conditions that affect conventional satellite imagery. This emerging technology and data can offer an important new mapping tool of forest biomass and other attributes used in informing land management. However, common methods of analyzing SAR data may not lead to accurate estimates of forest characteristics.