Scientists & Staff

Research Soil Scientist Mary Beth Adams sampling soil.

Mary Beth Adams

Research Soil Scientist, Emerit
180 Canfield Street
Morgantown, WV, 26505
Phone: 304-285-1520

Contact Mary Beth Adams

Current Research

  • Much of my current research deals with nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems as affected by different management and disturbance regimes. I conduct long-term experiments and particularly enjoy working collaboratively particularly in cross-site studies, with other scientists in the Forest Service, and scientists at universities and other agencies.
  • I work to understand how water and nutrients move through forests to help land managers get manage these precious resources.
  • I am an investigator on the Fernow Watershed Acidification Study, which is using ammonium sulfate fertilizer to look at acidification of an entire forested watershed; This long term experiment, in its 25th year, is a National Science Foundation LTREB (long-Term Research in Environmental Biology) site and has fostered many graduate and undergraduate research projects.
  • I am also evaluating the role of soil nutrients in sustaining the long-term productivity and diversity of Appalachian hardwood forests. This latter study is affiliated with the international Long Term Soil Productivity Study.
  • I am a strong supporter of Experimental Forests and Ranges, and spent a significant amount of time in managing the Fernow Experimental Forest, as well as representing the NRS on the Experimental Forests and Ranges chartered working group, of which I was a founding member.

Research Interests

  • I conduct long-term experiments and particularly enjoy working collaboratively particularly in cross-site studies, with other scientists in the Forest Service, and scientists at universities and other agencies.
  • I am interested in developing management recommendations for ecosystem restoration and/or rehabilitation. The high elevation red spruce ecosystem in the Appalachians is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the U.S.; I started my research career with the Forest Service in red spruce work, and continue to particpate in research projects in this endangered ecosystem.
  • The effects of air pollutants on forest resources is a continuing research area, including evaluation of alternatives/opportunities for restoration.
  • I am also interested in evaluating the effects of energy development on natural resources

Why This Research is Important

Long-term research is a hallmark of Forest Service research. It is important for us to understand that the trends we are observing are due to various management treatments or other causal factors, and not just due to annual variability in rainfall and temperature. My research will help us better manage our forests sustainably for many years


  • North Carolina State University, Ph.D. Soil Science and Forestry, 1986
  • Purdue University, M.S. Forestry, 1982
  • Forestry Purdue University, B.S. Forestry, 1980

Professional Organizations

  • Soil Science Society of America
  • Society of American Foresters (SAF)
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Association for Women in Science
  • West Virginia Association of Professional Soil Scientists

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

Research Datasets

  • Wood, Frederica; Kochenderfer, James N.; Adams, Mary B. 2016. Felled tree biomass for four hardwood species of the central Appalachians, West Virginia. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive.

National Research Highlights

Water in a stream on the Fernow Experimental Forest.

New Methods, Old Studies Reveal Source of Carbon in Lakes and Streams

Year: 2018

Over recent decades, dissolved organic carbon concentrations (DOC) in lakes and streams have increased through the northern hemisphere, leading to concerns about changes in drinking water quality and about productivity of these aquatic ecosystems. Scientists paired a novel technique and long-term studies to explore this phenomenon and develop insight that can be used to improve water quality.

Re-establishing pollinator habitat on mined lands using the forestry reclamation approach

Year: 2017

Many pollinator species are threatened worldwide for many reasons, including habitat loss. In Appalachia, native forests serve as critical pollinator habitat. A Forest Service scientist helped develop guidelines that will inform land managers on how to restore mined lands to create pollinator habitat.

Rubus, a plant spcies found in forests which responds to elevated nitrogen when there is sufficient light. This response can change the herb layer diversity in eastern forests. Christopher A. Walter, West Virgina University.

Elevated Nitrogen Deposition Changes Herb Layer Diversity

Year: 2016

Adding nitrogen to a forest stand decreased the diversity of the herb layer over time by increasing the amount of Rubus spp. (blackberry), which use nitrogen efficiently when there is enough light. More blackberry mean less of other herb layer plants.

A healthy, vigorous  2 year old DED-tolerant American elm seedling growing on a reclaimed mine site. USDA Forest Service

Disease-resistant American Elms are Suitable for Mine-land Reforestation

Year: 2015

Almost 1 million acres of reclaimed mine land in the Appalachians are no longer forested. Restoring these lands to productive forests requires planting a diversity of hardwood tree seedlings. A Forest Service scientist and her partners found that planting American elm seedlings that are tolerant of Dutch elm disease may be useful in mine spoil reforestation.

Phenocam and Antenna on top of the pierce laboratory at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, NH. USDA Forest Service

“Smart Forests” Digital Environmental Sensors and Telecommunications Take Research to New Levels

Year: 2015

Scientific breakthroughs of the 21st century will be powered by tools that help researchers collect and manipulate massive datasets, visualize that data, and offer new ways of understanding the scientific processes behind that information. Forest Service scientists are taking a lead in developing a national Experimental Forests and Ranges “Smart Forests” Network. This network of wired forests uses digital environmental sensors, wireless communications, and new data visualization programs to create a powerful integrated research and monitoring program for the nation’s air, water, forest and rangeland resources.

Henson Creek, a high-elevation stream located in a multiple use watershed within Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, Otto, N.C. Darlene Madarish, USDA Forest Service

A Tale of Nitrogen Retention From Two Watersheds

Year: 2014

Because elevated nitrogen loading can impair terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, understanding the origins, retention, and export of nitrogen from forested watersheds is crucial. Forest Service scientists at Fernow Experimental Forest and Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory analyzed long-term watershed studies to demonstrate the important effects of atmospheric deposition, history of disturbance, and biological inputs on the ability of a forest to keep nitrogen out of streams.

Watershed locations in the southern Appalachian states of Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. MB Adams, USDA Forest Service

Ozone and Climate Change Interact to Affect Streamflow

Year: 2013

Climate change is affecting the Nation's forests, but not in isolation. Tropospheric ozone has long been known to affect the health of individual trees. Recent research by Forest Service scientists and partners shows that ozone and climate change can interact to change how forests use water at the watershed scale.

Journal cover. William Peterjohn, WVU.

Writing Appalachian Ecology: Essays and Outreach

Year: 2013

In the summer of 2012 and 2013, students from West Virginia University's English Department, along with their instructors, participated in an unusual course focused on exploring, experiencing, and writing about the Fernow Experimental Forest. The course, Writing Appalachian Ecology, aimed to bridge the gap between sciences and humanities. Both the students and the Forest Service scientists involved in the course learned much about communication from each other.

How much forest biomass to leave behind or remove Shawn Grushesky, West Virginia University Appalachian Hardwood Center

Guidelines for Forest Biomass Utilization

Year: 2012

Online resource offers environmentally and economically sound biomass utilization in the Appalachian Mountains

Last modified: Tuesday, February 4, 2020