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Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9200
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

Inventory, Assessment, and Monitoring

Monitoring and Assessment

We analyze the inventory data to better understand the consequences of actions, natural processes, direction, and departure from desired conditions.  Data are used to periodically assess and report on current status, past trends, and likely futures for forest resources and the issues they face.

Selected Research Studies

Tree covered mountains in background and lake in foreground. Kinsmoodstock NH, White Mountain National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo..Estimating the Nation's Forest Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals
The development of state-by-state greenhouse gas estimates and data products by the USDA Forest Service increases the utility of the information prepared as part of the US commitment to the UNFCCC. State level data gives users information that is critical to planning and implementation of climate mitigation strategies for entities responsible for land management, including the state, tribes, local government, industry, non-profit organizations and individual landowners. Planned improvements to FIA’s estimation and reporting include a more robust estimation and reporting system, continued refinements to C pool estimates, and disaggregation of harvested wood products estimates.


Roadside windbreak.Trees Outside of Forests
Under the Prairie States Forestry Project (1935-1942), more than 220 million trees were planted in 33,000 windbreaks totaling more than 18,000 miles in a swath stretching from North Dakota into Texas. The purpose of planting trees in these formations was to slow desiccating winds and to protect soil. This sparked widespread adoption of agroforestry practices across the central United States, particularly windbreaks and riparian buffers. However, the current state of these resources is largely unknown because there hasn’t been a coordinated monitoring effort for several decades.


View of Earth from space.Forest Carbon Accounting and Reporting
Station scientists track carbon stocks and net changes for the Northern region and the Nation.  Carbon estimates are reported as the official greenhouse gas statistics for the United States and are used in global assessments.  This research results in methodologies and tools for estimating carbon for all ecosystem pools and in wood products and landfills.


publication cover image Reporting and Assessment
Results of the inventory are analyzed by project scientists in state- and national-level reports.  Annual reports are compiled for each state each year that show salient changes and highlight important issues within each state.  Every 5 years, a more comprehensive report is developed to provide issue-focused information for managers and policy-makers.


forest cover mapMap Atlas
Simply knowing the current resource estimates is no longer enough for managers and policy-makers.  Today’s complicated resource issues require knowledge of where conditions are located and their proximity to other related conditions and factors affecting their future character.  For example, the location of ash trees is an important factor in tracking the potential for an infestation of emerald ash borer.


Experimental forest sceneExperimental Forests
The Northern Research Station houses a network of Experimental Forests that span the many forest biomes found across the region.  This network promotes sites and ecosystem studies related to national and international research on long-term ecological conditions.


[photo:] Green Ridge State Forest (MD) welcome sign Monitoring Studies Conducted with State Clients
State forestry agencies often have non-traditional monitoring needs that FIA does not address. For example, NIMAC clients might be interested in having precise estimates of forest attributes on the forestland that they manage, like State forests, or having detailed information on trees outside of forests (FIA only collects tree information on forested plots).


[photo:] some of the flora of the  Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (Nevada)National Forest System Monitoring Coordination and Techniques Development
The National Forest System (NFS) of the US Forest Service manages more than 192 million acres of land. In the past, forest monitoring was conducted with less emphasis on standardized procedures and measuring accountability for meeting national management goals. In recent years, however, efforts have been made to measure the effects of management policies in a standardized way. As the Forest Service begins to implement these policies, new techniques and tools are needed to meet agency requirements.


[photo:] View of Eurasia, including Russian MODIS Satellite Development and Coordination of Monitoring Programs in Foreign Countries
Foreign countries have inventory and monitoring needs similar to those in the United States. Due to lack of expertise, political changes that lead to a lack of continuity in forestry staff, or lack of funding, many countries do not have a national forest inventory. Sound, scientifically defensible monitoring programs that provide results that are compatible with those of other countries are needed for both national and global forest resource assessments.


[image:] View of a version of a data recorder software package developed for NIMAC projectsDevelopment of Software Tools for the Planning, Execution and Analysis of Inventory and Monitoring Studies
NIMAC clients often contact us with general goals and desired outcomes of a monitoring study. Without specific goals, however, it is difficult to determine what variables to measure, how to design the inventory, what products will be produced, and how results will be used. Above all, planning and budget formation cannot proceed without these critical first steps. Once the project goals are established, the planning phase can begin. However, without a consistent, documented procedure to design the study and estimate costs given a desired level of precision of results, it is difficult to plan efficiently. Finally, once results are collected, tools are needed to store, process, and report estimates and their precision derived from the monitoring study.


PhotoNational Assessments of Urban Forests
NRS scientists are working with Resource Planning Act (RPA) staff to assess urban tree cover and functions nationally from the local to state to national scales.


[photo:] The eddy flux tower at Silas Little Experimental Forest.  Measurements of energy, water vapor and net CO2 exchange started in April 2004.  Annual net CO2 exchange (NEEyr) measured at this site ranges between 187 and -293 g C m-2 yr-1, with the largest C loss value corresponding with complete defoliation by Gypsy moth in 2007.  Monitoring and Understanding Forest/Atmosphere Carbon Dioxide Exchange: the NRS Flux Tower Network
Data from flux sites help test physiological models of C exchange and are critical to relating fluxes and remote sensing data. Companion physiological and ecological measurements enable partitioning carbon fluxes into plant and soil components and reveal mechanisms responsible for these fluxes. At some sites, biomass-based estimates of C storage have validated C budgets from direct flux data, and vice-versa. Data from the flux sites have been applied in ecology, weather forecasting, and climate studies, especially for sites with several years of data to quantify inter-annual flux variations.


[photo:] Ground estimates of insect defoliation are scaled-up to regional scales using multiple remote sensing platforms, including aerial photography, Hyperion, Landsat ETM+, and MODIS.Effects of Insect Defoliation on Regional Carbon Dynamics of Forests
On an annual basis, insects severely defoliate more than 20 million acres of forested land in the conterminous United States, affecting a larger area and incurring higher economic costs than any other disturbance.  However, the long-term costs and ecosystem consequences of insect outbreaks on forest health and productivity are difficult to quantify at the regional scale because of the variety of pests involved, differences in forest types affected, and varying spatial scale and intensity of the impacts.  In particular, the effect of insect activity on carbon cycling and sequestration at the annual and decadal scale is poorly characterized.  


PhotoNational urban forest assessment
NRS scientists are working with Resource Planning Act (RPA) staff to assess urban tree cover and functions nationally from the local to state to national scales.


[image:] Changes in climate, atmospheric components, land use and disturbance regimes affect forest carbon sequestration and biofuel product. It is important to understand these processes and attribute the effects to different causesImpacts of Disturbances and Climate on Carbon Sequestration and Biofuels
Currently, U.S. forests and forest products offset about 20% of the nation’s fossil fuel emissions. However, recent findings cast doubt on the sustainability of this offset. First, the strength of the U.S. forest carbon offset may be weakening due to forest ageing, climate variability, and increasing natural disturbances. Second, climate change is expected to further increase frequencies of insect outbreaks and wildfire, and alter species composition in forest ecosystems, consequently influencing forest carbon pools in a significant way.  These current and projected forest carbon cycle dynamics need to be considered in strategic forest planning and management decisions in coming decades if the nation’s forests are to provide stable or even increasing ecosystem services.


[image:] Fragmented forest landscapeIntegrating Landscape-scale Forest Measurements with Remote Sensing and Ecosystem Models to Improve Carbon Management Decisions
Managing forests to increase carbon stocks and reduce emissions requires knowledge of how management practices and natural disturbances affect carbon pools over time, and cost-effective techniques for monitoring and reporting.


Last Modified: 04/21/2021