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understanding of basic biophysical processes, and to make sound recommendations for forest management and protection.
The emerging research and education disciplines identified in this report are evolutionary, not revolutionary, extensions of the foundation research areas. On one hand, forest biotechnology is the extension of the focus on trees or plants at the cellular level to the level of DNA and genetic properties and markers. These efforts promise to revolutionize production of trees with desirable characteristics for commercial purposes, and precise identification and preservation of biodiversity at the most basic level. On the other hand, tree, plant, wildlife, water, and soil taxonomy and interactions at the stand level are being extended to examine ecosystems, human interactions, landscape effects, and adaptive management. These broad views of integrative natural resource and human resource management and impacts are closely reflected in the recent development of Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management and in industry and environmental forest certification approaches.
The scientific capacity in forestry research and education in the United States is at risk. This report identifies many encouraging facts regarding the extent and diversity of forestry research capacity. But the status quo of incremental changes in vision, funding, cooperation, and staffing will lead to diminished, not enhanced, research, education, and practice. The effects of reduced research and education capacity have been the largest with the USDA Forest Service research branch, but extend to the forest products sector and most state forestry research organizations as well.
Universities have maintained core strength in terms of the number of forestry professors, and have added many long-term temporary Ph.D. level professors and professionals as well, which are not recorded in the available data. In addition, many broader ecological and social faculty and programs in broader natural resources departments and colleges now contribute in part to forestry research and education. Recent budget cuts in all states in the 2000s, however, suggest that stable academic research and education support is likely to be at risk as well now. New research funds such as those from DOE (pre-competitive, productivity), USDA (NRI basic biology), NASA (remote sensing and GIS), and EPA (water and air quality, pollutants, and mitigation) have contributed the largest increases in funds and scope of forestry research in the last decade.
This mix of reductions in the research and education capacity of traditional Forest Service and forest industry organizations, stable levels (but dynamic fluctuations) in universities, and growth in new areas of forestry research makes universal generalizations difficult. The new research areas provide an example of enhanced prospects for forestry research capacity, but are neither comprehensive nor adequate by themselves. Systematic, broad-based, and thoughtfully planned programs as well as strengthened resources are required if forestry research capacity will meet rapidly increasing demands for a wealth of goods and services.