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Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

Sustaining Forests

Conserve and Enhance Special Forest Products

Non-timber or special forest products (SFP) are a relatively unknown aspect of forest management. Many SFP, such as various berries, mushrooms, ramps (wild onions), fern fiddleheads, and ginseng, are derived from the herbaceous component of forest understories. Other SFPs come from other parts of various tree species—such as birch (bark for basketry), maple (sap for syrup making), fir (boughs for Christmas decorations), and witch hazel (twigs for medicinal/cosmetic purposes). Even less information exists on the people who gather SFP, the methods they use, their reasons for gathering, and the actual uses of products. Although most Forest Service SFP research is concentrated in the Pacific Northwest and is largely biological in its focus, the NRS has been doing research on SFPs in the Northeast and Midwest and on the extensive informal ecological knowledge possessed by gatherers in these areas.

Research Studies

[image:] [photo:] Northern hardwoods in Wisconsin forest. Photo credit: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.orgUnderstanding family forest landowners’ interest in participating in carbon offset markets
The nation's family forest lands have the potential to be an important contributor to carbon sequestration efforts, but only if their owners are willing to manager for carbon and participate in markets that trade carbon credits. Yet little is known about how family forest landowners view programs that enable them to sell carbon credits generated from the growth of their forest, whether they would be interested in managing their lands to sequester additional carbon, or the compensation that would be required to encourage a meaningful level of participation.


[image:] Maine gatherer, Tania Morey by Michelle BaumflekCulturally and Economically Important Nontimber Forest Products of Northern Maine
This website will introduce you to the cultural and ecological landscape of northern Maine and its Canadian neighbors through the nontimber forest products that grow there and the people who gather and depend on them. During a two-year study of plants and people in the St. John River Watershed, we spent time talking with gatherers and land managers and learning about the plants that are important to them.


[photo:] Bramble blackberry plan. (Photo by Diane Earl). Gathering of Nontimber Forest Products in Scotland
An estimated one-quarter of Scotland’s population collects nontimber forest products such as mushrooms and other edibles, medicinal plants, and craft items. We are studying the social, cultural, economic and environmental characteristics of nontimber forest products (NTFP) gatherers, their practices, and their perceptions.


[image:] Maine gatherer, Tania Morey by Michelle BaumflekMorel Mushroom Gathering at Two National Park Sites
This study focused on morel mushroom harvesting at two National Park sites near Washington, D.C.: Catoctin Mountain Park and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. We conducted interviews and collected oral histories from 41 harvesters with two main goals in mind: (1) explore and use local ecological knowledge to understand morels and morel harvesting in the mid-Atlantic region, and (2) develop practical suggestions for morel management.


[photo:] Six- to seven-year-old poplar grown for biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts.Biofuels, Bioenergy, and Bioproducts from Short Rotation Woody Crops
We are testing the genetics, physiology, and silviculture of poplar crops. Specific areas of interest include quantitative genetic analyses of biomass, rooting, and other important traits from hundreds of genotypes grown throughout the North Central United States, as well as analyses of tree growth regulating mechanisms in the face of varying environments and changing climate. Our silviculture research includes a range of studies from vegetation management to yield trials.

[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.


[photo:] Poplar energy crops near the end of a rotation.Comprehensive Database of North American Poplar Research Published from 1989 to 2011
In addition to compiling the information into one interactive location, our objectives are to encourage publication in peer-reviewed journals and to enhance collaborations with partners outside the poplar community. The constraints of the database include: only peer-reviewed manuscripts that are focused on poplars, cottonwoods, aspens, and their hybrids grown as short rotation woody crops, research conducted in North America, and at least one topic area.


Last Modified: 06/12/2018