We address impacts and potential mitigation of threats to the health of forests in Pennsylvania and beyond. Threats include forest loss, climate change, invasive species, pollution, and more.

Pennsylvania at its core is a forest state. We are the department that is addressing the challenges needed to make sure our forests stay healthy for future generations. The ecological and social value of forests and natural areas are affected by both the loss of forests and changes in the health and condition of forests. The loss of forests is most often attributed to fragmentation; however, climate change, invasive species, and pollution also represent substantial stressors on our forests. 

Our faculty in research, teaching, and extension use an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the complexity of forest health and resilience at multiple scales from an individual site to landscapes and from single species to communities including plants, animals and the aquatic ecosystems within forested streams and wetlands.  Faculty study how past and current management practices, biological invasions such as chronic wasting disease in deer and chestnut blight in American chestnut, as well as invasive insects such as hemlock woolly adelgid, emerald ash borer, and spotted lanternfly can cause changes in the forest ecosystem resulting in direct and indirect effects on the abundance and distribution of co-occurring plants, birds and other wildlife.  Our faculty also work to develop innovative conservation and management strategies for mitigating these disturbances while incorporating societal needs and values into mitigation efforts including the needs and values of private forest landowners. Most forests in the eastern United States are in the private sector and are managed by a large number of individuals acting independently with their cumulative actions being able to either positively or negatively impact forest health. The effective conservation and management of forests to ensure ecosystem health and resilience will require the coordination of diverse groups of individuals and agencies in both the private and public sector. As such, ongoing and future research efforts will also examine public perceptions of ecosystem health/biological invasions and the roles people are willing to take to address these issues.

Faculty Working in this Area

Researchers in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management working in the area of Forest Health.