The Forest Stewards Guild research program carries out the Guild's mission by synthesizing and conducting scientific research to support our science based advocacy, field meetings, Model Forests, and members' land stewardship. Science goes hand in hand with Guild member's place-based experience to guide the practice of ecologically, economically, and socially responsible forestry. Guild research plays a key role as a moderating voice in forest debates because we strive to balance the ecological and economic concerns that are often in conflict. We develop informational resources that help people and communities who are engaged in forest stewardship. We also assist research scientists and organizations in incorporating the place-based experiential knowledge, perspectives, and needs of foresters and other natural resource professionals.
Current Research at the Guild
Climate Change, Carbon, and Forests
The Guild research seeks to identify how forests and forestry can resist the impacts of climate change, mitigate its effects, and adapt to changing conditions. Our 2020 synthesis report, Moving the Needle: A Review of Needs to Increase Climate Adaptation in the Forests of New England, provides an update on how forest managers are adapting forests to the changing climate today, as well as steps for overcoming barriers to forest climate adaptation.
The Guild has worked for more than a decade to establish science-based guidelines for use of forest biomass for energy. Our expertise is in the forest, so our work has focused on understanding how the forest should look after a harvest. A series of science-synthesis reports documented the importance of dead wood in Northeast, Southeast, Pacific Northwest, and Californian forests. Based on the need for snags, large downed logs, fine woody material, and other forest elements, and a review of existing guidelines, we developed biomass harvesting guidelines:
Wildfire and Communities
In fire-adapted forests, understanding wildfire and its impacts on ecosystems and communities is one of the central forest management challenges of our generation. The Guild’s research has touched a range of the issues as follows:
- Our report on fuel treatments in Southwestern mixed conifer forests has helped managers plan treatments and return fire to this forest type.
- Our work on treatment effectiveness in the wildland urban interface helped raise the bar for community wildfire protection plans.
- In collaboration with the US Forest Service and Santa Clara Pueblo, we examined the ecological effects of slash pile burning.
- More recently, our work has focused on reducing unplanned human caused wildfires and encouraging prescribed fire on private lands.
- We are working with partners including The Nature Conservancy on post-fire impacts, response, and ecological trajectories
Prescribed Fire and Management of Wildfires
Prescribed fire is a crucial tool for restoring forests and protecting from negative fire effects. The Guild is engaged in research to understand how to facilitate more prescribed fire, particularly for private landowners. For more information, see the report Prescribed Fire on Private Land in New Mexico. We are also working with a research team from the US Forest Service and Northern Arizona University to understand how managers can use naturally ignited wildfires to benefit forests and communities.
The Guild is committed to supporting ecological forestry, which requires a firm scientific foundation. Often this means synthesizing existing research and presenting it in a format useful to managers and landowners. For example, we are working with partners to encourage conservation and holistic management in wetland forests as described in the report Ecological Forestry Practices for Bottomland Hardwood Forests. In some cases, economic factors determine whether or not forests are managed in an ecologically responsible manner. In Wisconsin, we studied how forest practices and range of constraints on harvesting is affecting forests and forestry and published a report.
Research and management publications
Prescribed Fire on Private Land in New Mexico, December 2019
Putting Good Fire on the Ground: Rio Trampas TREX, October 2017
Home Hazard Assessment Guide, March 2017
Home Hazard Assessment Worksheet, July 2017 (to be used with the guide)
Rhode Island Woodland Partnership Strategic Plan, January 2017
Fire as an Ecosystem Process: The Black Lake Burn, December 2016
2014 Wildfire Season: An Overview, Southwestern U.S., August, 2015
2013 Wildfire Season: An Overview, Southwestern U.S., February, 2014
Restoration and Resilience in New Jersey's Forests, February, 2014
Ecology of Dead Wood in the Southeast, February 2011
Carbon Accounting and Management of Lying Dead Wood, January 2011
Ecology of Dead Wood in the Northeast, June, 2010
Valle Grande II Collaborative Restoration Project Socioeconomic Monitoring Report, January 2009 (link coming soon)
An Assessment of Biomass Harvesting Guidelines, January 2009
Synthesis of Knowledge from Biomass Removal Case Studies, September 2008
Harnessing the Power of Local Wood Energy, August 2008
Community Owned Forests: An Example from the Southwest, December 2007
State of the National Fire Plan, April 2004
Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Informing Bosque Restoration at Tesuque Pueblo, 2004 (link coming soon)