This article was published in the Spring 2007 issue of Pennsylvania Forests--an issue that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.

Overview of Pennsylvania's Forests

Forests are the dominant ecosystems in Pennsylvania--more than 16.6 million acres of forestland cover 58% of the land area of the state--and they provide a host of values to our citizens. They grow economically valuable hardwoods such as cherry, oak, and maple and a certain variety of marketable nonwood products, such as maple syrup and ginseng.

These forests also protect the watersheds that yield the majority of the state's fresh water. Pennsylvania has more than 84 thousand miles of rivers and streams and nearly four thousand lakes, reservoirs, and ponds. And yet less than 2% of the state's total area is found in lakes, ponds, and wetlands. This limitation serves to amplify the critical role of aquatic settings within our ecological system.

Pennsylvania's forests provide much of the habitat for the state's wildlife. They provide opportunities for people to experience nature through such activities as hiking, camping, hunting, and stream fishing. Nearly 70% of these forests are privately owned, with the remaining 30% held as public lands. Urban and community forests contribute in a substantial manner to the urban and suburban surrounds where the majority of the state's population lives. Herein are the trees that most residents see every day.

The industries that are based on the state's forest resources are significant. Wood product and paper industries contribute more than $16.8 billion annually to the state's economy and employ nearly 81 thousand people with a combined payroll of $2.8 billion. Persons engaged in hunting, fishing, and other outdoor pursuits potentially add another $3 billion annually through expenditures tied to their pursuits.

Research Overview

The Department of Ecosystem Science and Management has enjoyed a 100-year history as the state's lead research institution focusing on the evaluation, conservation, and management of forest-related resources.

Forest Ecology and Management

Dr. Kim Steiner, professor of forest biology, designed the oak regeneration study that has been under way since 1996. As a result of the research, scientists are beginning to understand why oaks are not regenerating.

Wildlife Environments

Regardless of the cause of the shift in forest composition, these transitions affect the wildlife populations that are dependent on these habitat settings.

Wood-based Energy

Trees may be the key to the state's energy future.

Traditional Strengths of the Wood Industry

Dr. Bruce Lord identified Pennsylvania's wood industry as having annual shipments amounting to $16.6 billion and an estimated total annual economic impact of $27.7 billion statewide.

Water Resources

Pennsylvania is home to more than one million private water wells, and more than 20,000 new wells are drilled each year.

Fisheries Science

Researchers in the School conducted a study to determine if the millions of nonnative trout stocked for Pennsylvania anglers have affected the state's native aquatic organisms.

Summary: A Composite View

As these research snapshots illustrate, the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management is engaged in a broad array of research topics.

Research in SFR (Centennial Article)