Sustaining Forests

Smart Forests

[photo:]Ian Halm is installing sensors on the tower at the meteorological station at Marcell Experimental ForestResearch Issue

Science and sound resource management depend on accurate and timely environmental data. In experimental forests and ranges throughout the United States, the USDA Forest Service is investing in digital sensors and telecommunications capacity to create an integrated monitoring and research program for the nation’s air, water, and forest resources, whether in rural or densely-populated areas.  Currently, a number of Northern Research Station’s experimental forests are building infrastructure to participate in the Smart Forest Network.

Smart forest technology will:

  • Collect and wirelessly transmit to the internet a fundamental set of environmental measurements at sites that are distributed strategically across major geographic, climatic and vegetation gradients, oftentimes at well-established research sites where existing long-term data have provided state-of-the-art science on the nation’s forests, water, and air resources.
  • Develop and implement cyber infrastructure to upgrade and enhance environmental monitoring at sites that are distributed strategically across major geographic, climatic and vegetation gradients.
  • Provide real-time access to environmental sensor data from established research sites to a single point of entry web site.
  • Apply visualization and outreach tools to engage researchers, resource managers, educators and the public with ‘Smart Forest’ data.

View a map of Smart Forest and EFR sites in the United States.

Our Research

Currently, the following Northern Research Station experimental forests and research sites are participating in the Smart Forest Network:

As this monitoring network is developed and expands, archived and near-real-time data from these locations will be available via webpages.

The data include air temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, wind speed, solar radiation, soil temperature and moisture, stream flow (at hydrologic sites), and a webcam to monitor tree phenology. Information and data can be accessed at:

Expected Outcomes

Northern Research Station science will be enhanced in myriad ways by the higher-frequency and highly accurate data provided through our Smart Forest initiative. These new tools and techniques will help them visualize that data, and offer them new ways of understanding air, water, and forest resources. In addition, the data will be available to the public, educators, and resource managers.

Research Results

Campbell, John L.; Rustad, Lindsey E.; Porter, John H.; Taylor, Jeffrey R.; Dereszynski, Ethan W.; Shanley, James B.; Gries, Corinna; Henshaw, Donald L.; Martin, Mary E.; Sheldon, Wade. M.; Boose, Emery R. 2013. Quantity is nothing without quality: automated QA/QC for streaming sensor networks. BioScience. 63(7): 574-585.


Research Participants

Principal Investigators


Last Modified: February 2, 2015