The core research program of work aims to improve the current understanding of the influence of forest operations and management (forest biomass, harvesting, thinning, site preparation, and road operations) on forest soil and water quality. Forest watershed science research focuses on understanding the influence of management, climate change, and disturbances on forest watersheds, water resources, and hydrology. This is accomplished by conducting research and development (R&D) to better understand the effects of roads, land-use change, and unmanaged recreation on water resources with a changing climate and exploring methods to adapt best management practices (BMPs) in forest watersheds to changing conditions. Forest biomass related research includes evaluating recovery efficiency and residue distribution with state-of-the-art recovery systems, sustainability, nutrient dynamics within biomass harvests, and soil and water resource conservation issues. Forest BMP related research investigates the influence of BMPs on water resource load reductions, soil erosion, and sediment control from forest watersheds. Forest road related research concentrates on evaluating the environmental effects of road management in the southern United States, understanding the effect of various forest road treatment techniques, advancing the understanding of the fate of sediment from road drainage structures, and understanding the mechanisms driving soil erosion and sediment transport in Southern Appalachian watersheds. Agroforestry related research aims to gain a more adept understanding of nutrient, water resource, and BMP issues in agroforestry systems.
The sustainability of the southern forests, as we now know it, will depend on how we address economic opportunities of emerging markets and environmental challenges related to climate change, land use patterns, forest fragmentation, and water resources in general. My research interests lie within four primary areas which include water resource quality and quantity under changing conditions, forest roads, understanding effectiveness and adapting forest best management practices (BMPs), and evaluating agroforestry alternatives. The forest watershed research that I have interest in exploring relate to quantifying the impacts of land use and climate change on water resources, quantify the factors (both natural and anthropogenic) influencing water resources (water quality and quantity), assessing how influencers impact benefits provided by forests, and providing management options and tools to forecast and/or mitigate negative impacts in the context of changing conditions. Research interests within the forest roads area focus on evaluating the environmental effects of road management in the southern United States. Research interests in the forest BMP area aim to quantify the influence of BMPs on water resource load reductions and to access the benefits of BMPs at the watershed scale. Research interests in the agroforestry area focuses on exploring nutrient, water resource, and BMP issues within agroforestry systems and development of alternative systems to satisfy the nation's food, fuel, fiber, and feed demands.
importance of research
The research that has been undertaken, and that is a focus in my research program, covers four primary areas but concentrates on water resources (quantity and quality) within forest watersheds which remain some of the healthiest watersheds in the nation. The research explored in these areas of interest aims to maintain or improve on the health of these critical forest watersheds under the changing conditions presented by climate, disturbances, and land-use. In many ways, forest watersheds serve as natural filters of most other land-use categories since these watersheds are most closely associated with drinking water in the majority of the nation’s watersheds. Maintaining the quality of waters flowing from the public forest lands is one of the primary emphasis areas for the USDA Forest Service and perpetuates a goal that links back to the creation of the agency. In addition, the research proposed under the alternative cropping / bioenergy area links to the Agencies commitment on hazardous fuels by exploring issues related to quantification of biomass availability, recovery, energy content of bioenergy species, and assessing benefits/consequences of residual biomass in forested systems.
The forest road research that I led originally focused on reducing soil erosion from forest road surfaces. However, the research focus expanded to evaluate benefits of existing forest BMPs and explore new alternatives for sediment control from forest roads. In this research on low-volume forest road systems, critical information was discovered and provided related on filtering associated with alternative sediment control practices. This work on sediment control has received application throughout the South, particularly on the National Forests of Alabama and Georgia. Additionally, research has been undertaken to evaluating the effects of forest operations and management on hydrology, water quality, and soil physical properties from poorly drained watersheds. In this research, my team participated with a team of scientist to lead research to gain a more adept understanding of the effects of forest operations on soil and water resources in these sensitive systems. Through this research, my team provided critical information required to modify a hydrological and water management model developed for agriculture (DRAINMOD) to be used as a planning tool (hydrologic model) for forest management on drained forestlands with deep organic surface soils.