The McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Program is funded through the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture as a formula-based and competitive program for forestry and natural resources research at land-grant and related universities. The program provides funding for critical state and regionally focused forestry and natural resources research, including graduate student support.
Impacts of Past Projects
Researchers set out to learn how high-elevation red spruce foliar damage, during an episode of winter injury in 2003, affected forest carbon storage years later. They found the injury reduced growth of red spruce for at least three years with cumulative reductions across the landscape equivalent to the carbon produced by burning 280 million gallons of gasoline.
They also discovered something unexpected. Diameter growth is now the highest ever recorded for red spruce. Theories that researchers are eager to test include whether the growth turn-around can be credited to reductions in pollution made possible by the Clean Air Act of 1990 or if red spruce may be one of nature’s winners in the face of climate change and warmer winters.
At the University of Vermont, these funds, approximately $500,000 annually, are managed by the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. The Rubenstein School uses McIntire-Stennis funds to develop research programs that result in a greater understanding of forestry and natural resource issues and practices and their effects on management, public policy, and economic and social systems.
In 2014, the Rubenstein School moved to a new approach that creates teams of collaborating McIntire-Stennis-funded researchers studying an umbrella research focus.
Managing the Matrix: A Framework for Assessing Ecosystem Services in Forested Landscapes
PI: William Keeton. Co-PIs: Cecilia Danks, Gillian Galford, Walter Kuentzel, Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, Taylor Ricketts, Allan Strong, Kimberly Wallin, Deane Wang
Not every forest ecosystem service (ecological or commercial) can be provided on every acre. To ensure long-term ecosystem functions, a mosaic of levels and types of management, protection, and human-use is necessary. This project provides insights to assist in sustainability of landscape-level functions through management, policy, and sustainable practices. Researchers are investigating biodiversity (emphasis on birds) and ecosystem functions (emphasis on carbon sequestration and watershed ecosystem services) on an urban to wildland gradient. Social components of land management include urban forestry, silviculture and forest management, and land conservation and stewardship.
Integrated Forest Ecosystem Assessment to Support Sustainable Management Decisions in a Changing Climate
PI: Jennifer Pontius. Co-PIs: Carol Adair, Therese Donovan, Clare Ginger, Gary Hawley, Robert Manning, James Murdoch, Shelly Rayback, Paul Schaberg
To better understand how climate may impact forest ecosystems, researchers are examining the role of climate in forest ecosystem health and function through monitoring, experimental, and modeling activities. Resulting maps of current and projected forest structure and function help to assess various management alternatives. This allows land managers to compare the probability of management activity success on a pixel-by-pixel basis, reflecting the complexity of the Northeast’s heterogeneous landscape. This research helps quantify the role of climate change in forest growth, condition, and productivity and provides spatial tools for land managers preparing for changing climate and opting for adaptive management strategies.
Mcintire-Stennis investigators depend on external partners to help ensure relevant research outcomes and provide critical matching funds to aid in the management and stewardship of Vermont forests.
The American Chestnut Foundation
McIntire-Stennis research is helping to support The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) mission of restoring the American chestnut to eastern woodlands. Kendra Gurney, New England Regional Science Coordinator for The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) works closely with a McIntire-Stennis research team to provide tree stock and to establish and monitor research plots. The team is led by a plant physiologist from the USDA Forest Service and a forest geneticist from the Rubenstein School with expertise in developmental cold tolerance for forest trees. These results will add to the ongoing testing by the Foundation of a blight-resistant chestnut population.
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"This research partnership is of great value to TACF, as it helps us expand and advance our research program and also contributes to the restoration of American chestnut to northern forests," states Kendra.
Kendra earned her Master’s in 2008 from the Rubenstein School and completed research on American Chestnut restoration supported by McIntire-Stennis funds. This project was the start of studying the American Chestnut by Rubenstein School researchers.
The Rubenstein School is grateful to The American Chestnut Foundation for providing matching funds and other support for McIntire-Stennis research. Although this particular project focuses on the American Chestnut, both the Foundation and the research team anticipate that this restoration work will help inform the re-establishment efforts of other tree and plant species.
Vermont Monitoring Cooperative
Historically, McIntire-Stennis research has been closely aligned with the activities of the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative (VMC), including joint funding of research projects such as the Forest Ecosystem Management Demonstration Project at the VMC Mt. Mansfield intensive research site. More recently, the collaboration between the McIntire-Stennis program and the VMC has been expanded and strengthened as a key mechanism to engage stakeholders.
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By design, the VMC brings together personnel from the USDA Forest Service, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, federal and state Fish and Wildlife agencies, and private forestland groups such as The Vermont Forest Products Association, The Nature Conservancy, and Vermont Family Forests. These stakeholders actively network and collaborate through the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative, providing many opportunities for McIntire-Stennis investigators to connect with land managers, researchers, policy makers and stewards. This active collaboration between the VMC network and McIntire-Stennis investigators provides a formal structure to both inform, and be informed by the stakeholders who will ultimately use the information and products generated by McIntire-Stennis activities. In 2014, this specifically involves a workshop at the VMC annual meeting to engage stakeholders in the design of a spatial decision support model for forest management.
McIntire-Stennis investigator, and VMC Principal Investigator Jennifer Pontius asserts that, "Understanding the management objectives and options available to our stakeholders is imperative to ensure that the final products created as a part of our McIntire-Stennis program have maximum impact and relevance beyond the scientific community. The connection with VMC ensures an ongoing two-way interaction with our stakeholders."
Last modified February 15 2016 11:45 AM