"Almost 90 percent of the land in the southeastern United State is privately owned," says Dave Wear, project leader of the SRS forest economics unit in Research Triangle Park, NC. "This means that major land use changes are being shaped by hundreds of thousands of individual decisions. We project that continuing urbanization and low-density residential development over the next decades, though focused in relatively small areas, could have a profound impact on the forest ecosystems in the Southeast."
A forest can be visualized as an island interior surrounded by an edge. Many species of animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and plants that thrive in interior forest habitats cannot live in forest edge habitats. "Maintaining the species diversity of a forest means having suitable proportions of edge and interior habitats," says Kurt Riiters, deputy program manager for the SRS Forest Health Monitoring unit. "As development proceeds, edge habitat becomes more plentiful and interior habitat more scarce. For this study, we focused on interior forest as an indicator of available habitat for species that tend to decline when forests become too fragmented."
The researchers used county-level data to estimate and model changes in interior forest in a study area that included the 12 states in the southeastern United State bounded in the north by Kentucky and Virginia and in the west by Texas and Arkansas. At this time, most of these states are still more than 60 percent forested, but five of the states are among the to
Contact: David Wear
Southern Research Station - USDA Forest Service