Forest and Natural Resources
Trees are major sources of fuel, food and fiber, as well as significant long-term sinks for atmospheric carbon. The developmental events that define tree life history are receiving increased attention from researchers. Efforts are underway to translate the mapping, sequencing and expression statistics generated in peach to hybrid poplar for potential use as a biomass crop.
Beech Bark Disease is an insect-fungus complex that is widespread and a high profile disease throughout much of the east coast. Considering the probable spread of beech bark disease to South Carolina, it will be useful to understand the impact it may have on the state’s forests. Clemson scientists have conducted ground surveys seeking evidence of disease symptoms and causal agents, specifically the predisposing beech scale insects and pathogenic fungal species.
Existing FORVAL software was developed by Clemson scientists and is used extensively by professional foresters. Now researchers are enhancing the software by adding a set of financial options that will allow consultants to solve current valuation and appraisal problems. The expanded software will make it possible to value pre-commercial timber stands, storm-damaged timber stands, conservation easements, non-timber values and carbon sequestration systems.
Longitudinal data on the impact of major hurricanes on forest ecosystems is being collected to determine if forests damaged by Hurricane Hugo will return to pre-hurricane ecosystems, or if their composition will be changed by the re-colonization of pioneer species or the invasion of exotic species. Bottomland hardwoods and cypress-tupelo swamps will be studied to determine if they recover faster or slower than upland pine and hardwood forests.
Research is underway to develop a silvicultural system and alternative protocols for restoring long leaf pines on sites where canopy pines are present, particularly in loblolly pine stands. When the retention of some existing canopy trees is desired to meet conservation objectives, natural loblolly pine regeneration may threaten the success of artificially regenerated longleaf pine seedlings.
Human wildlife conflicts continue to increase, causing economic losses and human health and safety concerns. There is a tremendous need to develop new approaches to reduce or eliminate human-wildlife conflicts in an effective, safe and humane manner. Research is focusing on using non-lethal immune-contraceptives as a potential tool to reduce reproduction in gray squirrels and the damage caused by high populations of urban gray squirrels.
Continuing research on wetland forests has provided long-term data sets in bald cypress dominated tidal and non-tidal swamp sites in the southeast. In addition, a comprehensive geographic network of permanent vegetation transects and plots has been established in southeastern coastal wetlands to document existing forest condition and set a fixed baseline for gauging future land-use change and invasive species inventories. This work will contribute to a more complete understanding of the growth and responses of tree species to management and environmental conditions.