May 17 2011 update on Southern Forest Futures Project

The US Forest Service released draft findings from its Southern Forest Futures Project (SFFP) on May 17, 2011 and will be accepting public comments for 60 days. The full report (1,318 pages) and a 78-page summary are available at www.srs.fs.usda.gov/futures/.

The SFFP is a multi-year research effort that forecasts changes in southern forests between 2010 and 2060. The following findings are highlighted on the SFFP website.

  • Over the next 50 years, multiple forces will interact to determine the future of southern forests.
  • Urbanization could reduce the amount of forests—up to 23 million acres, roughly the size of South Carolina—and change their character.
  • More people means more demands for additional goods and services from a declining forest base.
  • Population growth will bring more runoff from roads, buildings, and parking lots as well as increased pollution, impacting supplies of clean drinking water and the quality of aquatic habitats.
  • Wildfire potential increases; more numerous and more severe fires are forecasted.
  • More frequent and intense wildfires will pose additional challenges to community and forestry wildfire organizations.
  • The spread of plant, insect, and disease pests could severely affect native species, forest productivity, and wildlife.
  • More than 1,000 plant and wildlife species of conservation concern could be threatened by urbanization, climate change, and invasive species.
  • Forests could support higher levels of timber harvest than present, but demands are uncertain, especially for bioenergy.

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