Integrating landscape ecology, genetics, and conservation biology in the assessment of forest health
PARTNERS: North Carolina State University (NCSU) Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources
SUMMARY: The integration of three diverse scientific disciplines – landscape ecology, conservation biology, and evolutionary genetics – can offer innovative and valuable insights about the health of forested ecosystems. It is imperative to consider genetic processes in a landscape ecology context because ecological dynamics at a variety of scales can affect the evolution of species, including invasive species. Approaching conservation from a landscape ecology perspective is vitally important because large-scale processes affect biodiversity and because management decisions are often made at regional levels. Work that integrates all three disciplines is now possible because of recent advances in computing, statistical analysis, and molecular biology. Examples of potential research projects include linking the invasiveness of nonnative species to their genetic composition and to the landscapes they infest, and pinpointing regions of high genetic diversity across forest tree species.
PROGRESS: This newly initiated project uses Forest Inventory and Analysis data at a variety of spatial scales to characterize forest tree phylogenetic diversity, a measure of community composition that incorporates evolutionary relationships among species. The 2008 Forest Health Monitoring National Technical Report, currently in review, will contain a chapter based on this project. A journal manuscript is also in preparation.
Anyone interested in discussing collaborations that investigate forest health from the perspectives of landscape ecology, genetics, and/or conservation is encouraged to contact Kevin Potter, a new member of the Forest Health Monitoring team at North Carolina State University.
CONTACT: Kevin Potter, NCSU Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, email@example.com or (919) 549-4071