Model forecasts long-term impacts of forest land-use decisions

May 09, 2012

The drive to develop crops for use as biofuel, continues to raise questions about additional uses of forest land. A cutting edge computer model developed at North Carolina State University offers detailed insight to predict the environmental impact – along with understanding forest ecosystem response to global climate change.

"We think the model will help policy makers and forest managers make informed decisions to maintain forest productivity while minimizing the environmental impact of managed forest plantations," says Dr. Shiying Tian, a Postdoctoral Researcher at NC State, and lead author of a paper on the model, just released in the Journal Of Environmental Quality. "It also will help us understand how these forest systems will respond if we see changes in temperature or precipitation related to climate change," says Dr. Mohamed Youssef, Assistant Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at NC State, and co-author.

NC State previously developed models accounting for the hydrology, carbon and nitrogen cycles in agricultural land with high water table soils. The new model, DRAINMOD-FOREST, extends the applicability to forest land by accounting for plant growth in the forest ecosystem. The model addresses how trees and other forest vegetation affect – and are affected by – the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles. DRAINMOD-FOREST looks specifically at forests in areas with a high water table – such as coastal regions.

The new model is timely, due to a number of emerging uses for forest land. One example, the national interest in identifying new means of growing biofuels , like switchgrass, by planting it in the space between trees in commercial forests. DRAINMOD-FOREST will help determine whether such an "inter-crop" method is viable and sustainable. Would it hinder tree growth? What would the environmental consequences be? "We could also use the model to determine the viability and of introducing new commercial tree species," Tian says.

"This is a whole system model," says Youssef. "We look at the hydrology, or water cycle, of the system. We look at the nitrogen and carbon cycles. And we look at plant growth in the forest system. This is the most thorough model yet for ecosystems in the coastal regions of the south and southeast U.S."

Explore further: Antibiotic resistance risk for coastal water users

More information: View the abstract here.

Related Stories

Bacteria on old-growth trees may help forests grow

Jun 07, 2011

A new study by Dr. Zoe Lindo, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at McGill University, and Jonathan Whiteley, a doctoral student in the same department, shows that large, ancient trees may be very important ...

Deforestation reduces rainfall in Africa

Sep 19, 2011

Deforestation in the rainforests of West Africa reduces rainfall over the rest of the forest, according to new University of Leeds research published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Soil nutrition affects carbon sequestration in forests

Dec 13, 2006

On December 11, USDA Forest Service (FS) scientists from the FS Southern Research Station (SRS) unit in Research Triangle Park, NC, along with colleagues from Duke University, published two papers in The Pr ...

Forests absorb one third our fossil fuel emissions

Jul 15, 2011

The world's established forests remove 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon per year from the atmosphere – equivalent to one third of current annual fossil fuel emissions – according to new research published in the journal ...

Recommended for you

Lights out in Australia as Earth Hour kicks off

Mar 28, 2015

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the sails on the nearby Opera House went dark Saturday, as lights on landmarks around Australia were switched off for the global climate change awareness campaign Earth Hour.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.