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southern research station

USDA Southeast Climate Hub Workshop Discusses Salinization Impacts: What is Known and What is Not Known to Address Them

Trees and crops are experiencing stress, productivity loss and even death in coastal areas due to saltwater intrusion and salinization. For example, Somerset County, Maryland has been losing farmland to salt marsh migration at a rate of 100 acres per year over the last 10 years, and that amount is expected to increase significantly in the next few decades.

New 3D Fuel Modeling Helps Predict Fire Behavior

Land managers have a new tool in their firefighting arsenals that models forest fuels in three dimensions. These 3D fuel models have the potential to make firefighting and the management of controlled burns safer and less costly while helping to protect valuable natural resources.

What it Takes to Bring Back the Near Mythical American Chestnut Trees

Sometimes reaching a height of more than 100 feet tall with trunk diameters often well over 10 feet, the American chestnut was the giant of the eastern U.S. forests. There were once billions of them and their range stretched from Georgia and Alabama to Michigan, but the majestic tree was gone before forest science existed to document its role in the ecosystem.

The State of the Forest

The United States forest products industry accounts for approximately four percent of the nation’s total manufacturing GDP, producing over $200 billion in products every year. To keep tabs on the condition and status of America’s forest resources over time, the USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis Program compiles the official estimates for all public and private forest lands in the country. This long-term trend information is used to inform economic, policy, and management decisions at a range of scales.

Forest Farming Ramps

Ramps, these tasty spring ephemerals with the scientific name Allium tricoccum, are generally called ramps in the south and wild leeks in more northern areas. They are native to the hardwood forests of eastern North America.

In many areas, ramps are viewed as a sign of the coming of spring and people flock to the forests to “dig a mess of ramps.” Many communities hold ramp festivals. When in season, local restaurants, roadside vegetable stands, and other markets sell ramps to residents and tourists. In recent years, the interest in these spring delicacies has increased to the point that high-end restaurants in cities across the nation are now offering ramps on their menus.

Sunlight to the Seagrasses: U.S. Forest Service Research Shines Light on Threatened Coastal Plant

Just off Florida’s 8,000 miles of coastline and tidal areas, in shallow sunlit waters, over two million acres of seagrass meadows waft in the ocean currents.

Besides providing food and habitat for manatees, sea turtles, shellfish, and other animals, seagrasses protect coasts from erosion and store vast quantities of carbon dioxide.

“Seagrasses grow off the coast of many other U.S. states, including North Carolina and Virginia, as well as around the world,” said U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station scientist Zanethia Choice. “Globally, their economic value is nearly $4 trillion.”

Why is Cogongrass So Successful at Invading the South?

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Cogongrass makes kudzu look like a lightweight. A perennial grass, it grows on every continent except Antarctica and has earned a reputation as one of the worst weeds on Earth. In the South, cogongrass ranks among the top 10 plant marauders, invading forests, rights-of-way, and agricultural fields, literally taking over the landscape and altering ecosystems.

Native to Southeast Asia, the weed first arrived in the United States in 1912 as packing material in orange crates imported to Grand Bay, Alabama.  A few years later, farmers planted cogongrass in Mississippi as a possible forage crop. Since then, it’s spread to more than 66,000 acres throughout the South, its progress limited only by winter cold. Landowners and agencies have fought this weed for years with limited success.

International Student Visitor Arrives for Forest Service Internship

Wellington Cardoso, an undergraduate student from Brazil, arrived in Auburn, Ala., this past January to begin an internship with the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station where he’s been studying a biomass harvesting operation.

“The research unit has been examining harvesting technologies for short rotation woody crops,” said Dana Mitchell, project leader of the Forest Operations research unit, which is hosting Cardoso. “Cardoso’s internship ends in July, and he has been able to witness field operations in action.”

Trashy Life: Crayfish Turn Rubbish into a Home

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

To raccoons, snakes and opossums, crayfish look pretty tasty, and large crayfish will even cannibalize their smaller kin. Crayfish, which live in rivers and streams, need instream cover to hide from all their predators. They also use cover to find food, to shelter while incubating eggs, and to keep themselves from being washed away in floods.

Susan Adams, a fisheries research scientist for the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, examined different types of cover in the Yazoo River basin of Mississippi to see whether crayfish used large pieces of household trash for shelter when natural cover was limited. Her findings recently appeared in the journal Environmental Management.