Source: ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY submitted to
THE INTERRELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND ECOLOGICAL PROCESSES IN FOREST FUNCTION, COVER, AND DYNAMICS
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
NEW
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Annual
Accession No.
0218125
Grant No.
(N/A)
Project No.
ALAX-011-M209
Proposal No.
(N/A)
Multistate No.
(N/A)
Program Code
(N/A)
Project Start Date
May 16, 2009
Project End Date
Sep 30, 2013
Grant Year
(N/A)
Project Director
Fraser, R.
Recipient Organization
ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY
4900 MERIDIAN STREET
NORMAL,AL 35762
Performing Department
Biological & Environmental Sciences
Non Technical Summary
This study is important because it is an attempt to extend and integrate an understanding of forest ecosystems across time and varying spatial levels. The three study areas include: 1) one of the largest contiguous areas (Alabama's Black Belt, BB) in the southern United States in which a minority (African-American) group makes up a majority (66%) of the population, 2) one of the few large contiguous (Bankhead National Forest, BNF) forests remaining in Alabama, and 3) the fastest growing forest (Madison Count, MC) to urban transition in Alabama. Two of these areas are rural with a wealth of forest resources: one (BB) is endemically poor despite significant forest based economic development efforts; the other area (BNF) plays a substantive role in providing ecological services in northern Alabama. MC is an important economic hub and an evolving urban ecosystem. Scientific understanding of forest ecosystems will be advanced by the monitoring, modeling and communicating of changes in the forests as well the relationship between forest cover, forest use and forest functions. This is important because a change in the function of a forest is often not just a result of forest cover change but also an important driver of future forest cover dynamics. In addition, forest functions are determined synchronously by both local and external drivers and, in cases such as the provision of drinkable water, forest functions may drastically change without any apparent change in forest cover and vice versa. Understanding the dynamics of forest ecosystem changes in response to human disturbances and the resulting social, economic, and ecological impacts is critical to developing a better understanding of forest ecosystems functions and processes. This project has at its core the emerging knowledge areas identified in the 2007 McIntire-Stennis Strategic Plan. It will integrate across disciplines by incorporating the findings of colleagues studying other aspects of forest ecosystems with this project's findings on human attitudes and behaviors, especially those that give rise to conflict and uncertainty while influencing decision- making. Much of the effort will focus on modeling aspects of these complex systems and enabling environmentally, economically and socially sound management decisions. These syntheses will recognize the social dimensions of natural resource management and stewardship by explicitly incorporating input from policy makers, planners, managers, and stakeholders, such as private landowners and the interested public. Scientific papers and presentations, as well as public lectures, technical assistance and educational workshops will serve to disseminate project
Animal Health Component
(N/A)
Research Effort Categories
Basic
(N/A)
Applied
(N/A)
Developmental
(N/A)
Classification

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
1236099301010%
1310699107010%
1310699301010%
1310699308010%
6100699107010%
6100699301010%
6100699308010%
8020699107010%
8020699301010%
8020699308010%
Goals / Objectives
The objectives of this proposed project areis to, over a five year period: 1. Consolidate prior research and develop or refine model(s) of the connection between the social, economic and ecological process which incorporates the socioeconomic and biological characteristics of rural and urban forest ecosystems in the study areas. 2. Collect and analyze data to assess the quantity and value of ecological goods and services in each of the study areas (Figure 2 and Text Box 1). 3. Collect and analyze primary data on landowners and stakeholders to establish their connection to local ecological goods and services as well as their role in shaping local resource management decisions (see example in Appendix 1). 4. Examine policies, processes and laws influencing the management of local natural resources, the functions of local forests, and the beneficiaries of the goods and services from the forests. 5. Develop graduate level courses which incorporate this research while training students in the content and tools required to conduct research in this multi-disciplinary subject area. 6. Develop outreach activities which disseminate research findings thatwhich educate stakeholders and assist them in making or participating in sound resource management decision-making. Duration,Timetable and Ouput Objective 1. Timeline: May 15th to September 30th, 2009. Output: Two papers prepared and submitted for publication. Objective 2. Timeline: October 1st, 2009 to September 30th, 2013 Output: Primary and Secondary data added to an existing database. Objective 3. Timeline: October 1st, 2010 to September 30th, 2013 Output: Primary and Secondary data added to an existing database. One MS student trained and one PhD student started Objective 4. Timeline: October 1st, 2009 to September 30th, 2010 Output: Secondary data added to an existing database. One MS student trained and one PhD student started Objective 5. Timeline: May 15th, 2009 to September 30th, 2013 Output: Two USDA AFRI Capacity Building grants submitted Eight undergraduate students employed in research. Two undergraduate courses revised and four graduate courses developed using and in support of research Objective 6. Timeline: May 15th, 2009 to September 30th, 2013 Output: Presentations to local stakeholders and scientific community Three refereed journal papers submitted.
Project Methods
The procedures outlined allow for evaluation and refinement of research over a five year period. This allows for flexibility if changes become necessary. Phase 1. Consolidating research and publishing (May 15 to September 30, 2009) Objective 1: Two papers, one comparing and contrasting the relationship between land cover and human well-being in the three study areas, and another discussing the role of trust in the decision-making process on the BNF FHI will be prepared. Objective 5. Assist in writing two USDA AFRI Capacity Building proposals. Objective 6. Presentation will be made organizations. Phase 2. Collecting secondary data and dissemination of research concepts and findings. (October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010) Objective 2. Identifying and acquiring secondary (social, economic, and biological) data. Objective 4. Data gathering on the policies and procedures influencing forest-based economic development and natural resource. Objective 5. Six graduate and undergraduate courses will be revised or developed. Objective 6. A model integrating the social, economic and ecological processes will be conceptualized, discussed with colleagues, presented at scientific meetings and drafted as a paper for peer review publication.. Phase 3. Collecting primary data and dissemination of research findings (October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011) Objective 2 & 3. A graduate student will be provided a research. Objective 5. Two undergraduate work study students will be employed. Objective 6. A first series of analyses of the proposed model integrating the social, economic and ecological processes will be estimated, discussed with colleagues, presented at scientific meetings and drafted as a paper for peer review publication. Phase 4. Analyses of model, dissemination of research findings, and refining the conceptual model. (October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) Objective 2 & 3. The graduate student will be assisted in completing his/her thesis. Objective 5. Two undergraduate work study students will be employed. Objective 6. Analyses of the proposed model integrating the social, economic and ecological processes will be re-estimated with inclusion of primary data, discussed with colleagues, and presented at scientific meetings. Phase 5. Analyses of model, dissemination of research findings, refining the conceptual model. (October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013) Objective 2 & 3. A PhD graduate student will be hired. Objective 5. Two undergraduate work study students will be employed. Objective 6. Analyses of the proposed model integrating the social, economic and ecological processes will be re-estimated with inclusion of primary data, discussed with colleagues, and presented at scientific meetings If a material change in the objectives of the project becomes necessary, a new or revised project proposal will be prepared and submitted. Any major changes in procedure will be incorporated in a revision of the project proposal.

Progress 01/01/12 to 09/30/12

Outputs
Target Audience: Our efforts included formal classroom instruction and development of curriculum or innovative teaching methodologies. Chen X. 2010. Spatial geometry of amphibian distribution in Alabama, USA. Wildlife Biology in Practice 2: 57-68.This study was used for educational materials and resources for NRE 479/579 (Aerial Photo Interpretation), NRE 484/584 (Ecological Processes) and NRE 587 (Landscape Ecology) Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided? Four graduate students were advise during this time period. One graduate student for MS was recruited for this research on fish population. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest? The relevant abstracts were accepted by the Annual meeting of Internal Association of Landscape Ecology (US-IALE, Portland, OR) and the conference of Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere at Asheville, NC. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? To conduct a study of fish populations in norther Alabama watersheds and sstudy landuse and landcover change in a Blabkbelt county in Alabama.

Impacts
What was accomplished under these goals? The spatial geometry of historical locality records of 60 amphibian species in 12 families at Alabama, USA was studied using a computational approach. Natural landscape provides habitat for wildlife and wildlife provides ecological services to human society. It is important to understanding the spatial distribution and structure of wildlife. In this study, the distances to nearest neighbor among thousands of historical locality records of subpopulations from 60 amphibian species in 12 families at Alabama, USA were studied using a computational approach to characterize their spatial geometry. The results indicated that the distances to the nearest subpopulations follow a power-law distribution and that the nearest neighbors formed similar triangles in the distribution of subpopulations for the majority of amphibian species. The results may provide a new understanding of amphibian spatial structure from a geometric perspective and these geometric characteristics may have implications for ecological conservation of declining amphibians at a large scale.

Publications

  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Published Year Published: 2012 Citation: Chen X. Spatial geometry of amphibian distribution in Alabama, USA. Wildlife Biology in Practice 2: 57-68.


Progress 01/01/11 to 12/31/11

Outputs
OUTPUTS: Natural landscape provides habitat for wildlife and wildlife provides ecological services to human society. It is important to understanding the spatial distribution and structure of wildlife. In this study, the distances to nearest neighbor among thousands of historical locality records of subpopulations from 60 amphibian species in 12 families at Alabama, USA were studied using a computational approach to characterize their spatial geometry. The results indicated that the distances to the nearest subpopulations follow a power-law distribution and that the nearest neighbors formed similar triangles in the distribution of subpopulations for the majority of amphibian species. The results may provide a new understanding of amphibian spatial structure from a geometric perspective and these geometric characteristics may have implications for ecological conservation of declining amphibians at a large scale. The spatial geometry of historical locality records of 60 amphibian species in 12 families at Alabama, USA was studied using a computational approach. The relevant abstracts were accepted by the Annual meeting of Internal Association of Landscape Ecology (US-IALE, Portland, OR) and the conference of Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere at Asheville, NC.Advised six graduate students during this time period and recruited one MS student. Developed curricula for undergraduate course Forest Ecology (NRE 379) and graduate class Human Dimensions of Natural Resources (NRE 780) and Developed methods or technique for analysis of spatial geometry. The research results were disseminated by peer-reviewed journal paper:
Chen X. 2010. Spatial geometry of amphibian distribution in Alabama, USA. Wildlife Biology in Practice 2: 57-68.This study was also used for educational materials and resources for NRE 479/579 (Aerial Photo Interpretation), NRE 484/584 (Ecological Processes) and NRE 587 (Landscape Ecology) The University of Guyana requested the (no pay leave) services of the PI to assist in building their capacity in developing a Conceptual Framework for an International Biodiversity Centre in Guyana, and a report on the opportunities for natural resources conservation and management field-based training in Guyana. PI: participated in and evaluated a field-based training program in forest ecology, and a train-the-trainer Forest Conservation field course in Suriname; supervised the development of a field-based Protected Area Experience in Guyana and lead discussions on the establishment of an International Biodiversity Centre in Guyana; and participated in an initiative to coordinate ecological research in the six nations of the Guiana Shield. PARTICIPANTS: One graduate student for MS (Ms. Christian White) was recruited for this project near the end of 2011. The PI (Rory Fraser) worked one month on the project The co-PI (Xiongwen Chen) worked three months on the project. The USDA Forest Service collaborated with Chen and Fraser worked with University of Guyana, and Anton de Kom University. Both researchers collaborated with colleagues in Alabama A&M University's NSF Center for Ecosystem Assessment. Chen developed capacity in spatial analyses and Fraser had an opportunity to learn about the use of satellite radar in forest change detection and carbon estimation as well as the global approach to estimating TEEB (the ecological and economic benefits) of ecosystems. TARGET AUDIENCES: Both researchers have integrated their research into their teaching and service efforts. The field-based experiences were shared with students, field staff, and faculty in training programs in Alabama, Suriname, and Guyana. The insights on ecosystems analyses were shared with scientists and administrators from six countries in the Guyana Shield. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Not relevant to this project.

Impacts
The spatial analysis changed in knowledge, because it provided a new understanding of amphibian spatial structure from a geometric perspective and these geometric characteristics may have implications for ecological conservation of declining amphibians at a large scale. It may also change future conservation, restoration action and plans. The knowledge and experienced gained in this project were instrumental in advising and guiding University of Guyana and Anton de Kom University (Suriname) in building their capacity to conduct field-based research in natural resource conservation and management. In turn, the exchange in ideas has informed future research efforts in Alabama's Bankhead National Forest and Black Belt. The PI was exposed to new spatial methodologies as well as new approaches to estimating ecological and economic benefits of ecosystems.

Publications

  • Chen X. 2010. Spatial geometry of amphibian distribution in Alabama, USA. Wildlife Biology in Practice 2: 57-68.


Progress 01/01/10 to 12/31/10

Outputs
OUTPUTS: (1) The changes over the past seven decades in Alabama's 67 counties' forest resources as well as the changing relationship between human population and commercial forest land were characterized at the county level. Soil respiration dynamics (based on global NDVI between April 1998 and December 2002) was assessed to determine the relative importance of climate and non-climate factors on vegetation dynamics. The results were compared with other findings. (2) Cross-sectional spatial regression models were estimated using the data from the U.S. Population and Economic Census, Geographic Information System, and satellite imageries of 2000 to determine the relationship between human well-being and forms of community capital in the eight Black Belt counties in the west-central region of Alabama. PARTICIPANTS: Dr. Fraser spent his sabbatical year (2009-2010) as a visiting professor with the University of Guyana, during which time he taught undergraduate Forestry and Agriculture classes and conducted research on the potential of Guyana and economically poor but resource rich countries interested in participating in the REDD+ program. Dr. Chen joined the project and worked with colleagues in University of California in developing three papers on forest resource changes in Alabama. Both Drs. Chen and Fraser are co-PI on 5-year NSF grant to Alabama A&M University which leverages this research project in furthering the study of the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources in the Cumberland Plateau and the Black Belt regions. TARGET AUDIENCES: Dr. Fraser is providing input for consideration in the 2012 Farm Bill on Ecosystems'Health. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Dr. Chen has joined the project and brings considerable experience in Ecosystems' assessment and in collaboration with other AAMU scientists we are focusing attention on valuing ecosystem services.

Impacts
Outcomes of the project --- (1) In Alabama the area of commercial forest increased from about 7.6 million ha in 1935 to 9.2 million ha in 2005. The forest resource structure changed and the area of commercial forest exhibited a positive linear relationship with human population. The value of the Q10 parameters for temperature response component of all of the models showed sensitivity to soil moisture. (2) Alabama's Blackbelt region is one of the poorest in the United States with high proportion of African-American populations. The results indicate that geographic space is highly segregated in these counties and African Americans are less likely to be found in areas high in built, natural, and political capital. Service-providing entities such as financial, industrial, and social capital are located more in urbanized centers. ---- Impact of the project ---- (1) This is the first time to estimate soil respiration without destroying soil and plant roots. Accurate prediction of soil respiration and its changes under future climatic conditions requires a clear understanding of the processes involved. Our results indicated long term forest inventory information and other related data can be used to uncover emergent trends in Alabama's forest resources. The results of the process-based models provided a better understanding of soil respiration dynamics under changing environmental conditions, but the extent and contribution of different source components need to be included in mechanistic and process-based soil respiration models at corresponding scales. (2) The results of the spatial model of the Black Belt region suggest that social capital is strongly correlated with human well-being. The findings provide spatially-explicit empirical insights and suggest targeting rural development policies to create more social capital and address specific needs of the region, especially of African-American populations.

Publications

  • Chen, X., Li, B-L. 2010. Global scale assessment of the relative contribution of climate and non-climate factors on annual vegetation change. Geofizika 27: 37-43.
  • Chen X. 2010. Trends of forest inventory data in Alabama, USA during the last seven decades. Forestry 83: 517-526.
  • Chen X, Post W.M., Norby J.R., Aimee T.C. 2010. Modeling soil respiration and variations of source components among treatments of global climate change. Climatic Change (in press)
  • Gyawali, B. R., Fraser, R., Bukenya J., and Banerjee, S. 2010. Spatial relationship between human well-being and community capital in the Black Belt region of Alabama. Journal of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development 2(8):133-140.