Scientists & Staff

Rakesh Minocha

Rakesh Minocha

Plant Physiologist / Biochemist
271 Mast Road
Durham, NH, 03824
Phone: 603-868-7622

Contact Rakesh Minocha

Current Research

My research is focused on the evaluation of the effects of biotic and abiotic stress-inducing factors on the metabolic health of forest stands and to use some of the significant cellular metabolic changes for developing early indicators for stress assessment. Another focus of my research is to relate the impact of these changes to the below-ground microbial communities and soil health.

Current research examines:

  • I examine wood and foliar metabolism and chemistry (inorganic cations, polyamines, amino acids, heavy metals, organic acids, sugars, soluble proteins, and chlorophyll) at various sites that have been impacted by different forms of stress including urbanization, fires, drought along with repeat soil freeze-thaw in winters (both caused by global warming), heavy metals alone and in various combination within the Northeastern USA, CA, Europe and Asia. Our goal is to determine the relationship between these parameters and data collected on the root, soil, and soil solution samples from our cooperators and collaborators. So far, putrescine, a polyamine, amino acids arginine and proline, and phytochelatins (metabolites that are synthesized to protect plants from heavy metal stress) have shown the potential to be used as early indicators of physiological stress under field conditions. Our long-term goal is to develop a suite of metabolic markers as indicators of forest health in a way similar to the use of cholesterol and diabetes test for human health.
  • The applicability and limitations of dendrochemistry to provide markers of environmental change.
  • The effect of environmental pollution on the structure and functions of soil microbial communities.
  • Impact of urbanization on stand health
  • Impact of long-term exposure to stress on stress memory in trees.
  • Role of calcium oxalate as a calcium reservoir in the trees within a forest ecosystem

Research Interests

Trees have complex biochemical mechanisms to detect, respond to, and survive multiple concurrent environmental stresses. Stress can affect metabolism, and usually, the effects of multiple stresses are additive. Many stress-related metabolic pathways are interconnected via common signal transduction pathways many of which use Ca as a second messenger. Stress-related pathways often share and may even compete for common precursor metabolites. Such biochemical interactions mean that changes in cellular levels of one metabolite will have multiple effects on several other metabolites within the same and related pathways. Presently, there are only a few metabolic changes that can be easily measured to monitor stress in forest trees; except heavy metal stress, none can be used alone as a marker for specific stress.

The metabolites synthesized or interconverted in response to stress do cost the cell's energy that is diverted from productive and growth processes. The primary focus of my research is to delineate the biochemical and physiological basis of the stress response and develop early indicators to detect environmental stress in forest trees. Stress detection before the appearance of visual symptoms could lead to corrective forest management. The long-term goal of my research is to develop a set of metabolic markers that can be used to monitor the health of forest trees by detecting physiological stress. This diagnostic kit should be applicable to all species, across regional, continental and temporal scales in a way blood tests are used for human health.

My research requires collaborative teamwork with a large network of interdisciplinary scientists to assemble the needed data on environmental factors, soil and soil-solution chemistry, growth rates of trees, nutrient cycling, and tree physiology with minimal intrusion and small-scale sample collection. The goal is to develop models of interactions among the various factors from which accurate inferences can be drawn to propose and test efficient and effective forest management practices. As the only biochemist/physiologist member, the scientist brings more than 30 years of experience in the tools and techniques needed for the research teams, thus complementing the expertise of a large number of scientists interested in reversing recent trends of decline in forest productivity due to natural and anthropomorphic climate changes. 

Why This Research is Important

Stress from mechanical injury, subsequent infection, and environmental change are facts of life for wild, rural, and urban trees. This stress often impacts the diverse goals of forest management, wildlife conservation, high-quality wood products, or the desire for safe and healthy trees in our communities. Maximizing the benefits of trees for forests and communities requires understanding how these goals are linked to tree biology. Therefore, early detection of tree response to the various simultaneously acting stressors in the environment can forewarn us about the possible future negative changes in the forest stands populations so that forest managers can act in a timely manner. Such studies also help one to understand the mechanisms behind stress-memory and adaptation as well as resilience to stress.


  • University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, Ph.D. Biochemistry (cancer), 1985
  • University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, M.S. Zoology (Limnology), 1978
  • Panjab University, Chandigarh, India, M.Sc. (Honors) Zoology (Limnology), 1976
  • Panjab University, Chandigarh, India, B.Sc. (Honors) Zoology, 1975

Professional Organizations

  • American Society of Plant Biologists
  • Ecological Society of America

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

Research Datasets

  • Minocha, Rakesh; Long, Stephanie. 2020. Effects of nutrient addition on leaf chemistry and metabolism of three bog shrubs growing in the Mer Bleue bog, a Canadian boreal peatland. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive.
  • Minocha, Rakesh; Long, Stephanie; Minocha, Subhash C.; Marquardt, Paula E. 2020. Data on the effects of elevated carbon dioxide and ozone on carbon and nitrogen metabolism in the foliage and sapwood of trembling aspen, paper birch, and sugar maple at the Aspen FACE (Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment) study site. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive.
  • Minocha, Rakesh; Long, Stephanie; Turlapati, Swathi A. 2020. Foliar and soil chemistry at Harvard Forest Chronic Nitrogen Amendment Experiment 1995-2009. : Harvard Forest Data Archive: HF297.
  • Minocha, Rakesh; Long, Stephanie. 2020. Red spruce foliar nutritional and metabolic responses to N, Ca, and N+Ca additions in a plot level study from Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest NH, Adirondack State Park, NY and Groton State Forest, VT from 1997-2000. : Environmental Data Initiative.
  • Minocha, Rakesh; Long, Stephanie. 2020. Differential impacts of calcium and aluminum treatments on foliar and sapwood nutrition and metabolism of sugar maple trees growing at the west edge of WS6 of the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest from 1997-2009. : Environmental Data Initiative.
  • Minocha, Rakesh; Long, Stephanie. 2020. Foliar and sapwood nutritional and metabolic responses to Ca-treatment at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, 2000-2015. : Environmental Data Initiative.
  • Minocha, Rakesh; Long, Stephanie; Turlapati, Swathi A.; Fernandez, Ivan. 2018. Dynamic species-specific metabolic changes in the trees exposed to chronic N+S additions at the Bear Brook Watershed in Maine, USA. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive.

National Research Highlights

Alan Ellsworth (left), U.S. Park Service and Jason Siemion (right), U.S. Geological Survey taking soil samples at one of the twelve intensive sites in set up along the Appalachian Trail corridor. Kenneth Dudzik, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Appalachian Trail Study Fills in the Gaps on Spatial Patterns of Acidic Deposition Effects

Year: 2016

A multiagency and multidisciplinary investigation along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail provided an extensive dataset that filled the gaps in scientists knowledge regarding the spatial patterns of acidic deposition effects on soil, stream water, plant communities, and tree biology.

American elm cuttings growing in the greenhouse. Kathleen Knight, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Elm Disease Resistance Research Gets a Boost

Year: 2016

Great news for disease-tolerant American elm! A grant from The Manton Foundation has provided the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station with an opportunity to accelerate American elm research in collaboration with Nature Conservancy.

Project SMART provides opportunities for students to conduct hands-on research in environmental sciences. Stephanie Meyer, Forest Service

Project SMART: Educating and Motivating Talented High School Students in Math and Science

Year: 2011

Forest Service funding from the Northern Research Station's Civil Rights Diversity Committee's Special Project Funds and Conservation Education's More Kids in the Woods helped 39 students from 11 states and 3 foreign countries attend Project SMART, a 4-week summer institute at the University of New Hampshire. Students participating in Project SMART put science into action through research projects in areas of marine and environmental science, bio- and nanotechnology, and space science.

Last modified: Monday, April 12, 2021