Forecast for southern U.S. forests out

May 17, 2011 at 6:55 PM

WASHINGTON, May 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Forest Service has released a forecast on southern U.S. forests identifying areas forest managers will focus on to maintain them in coming years.

Between 2010 and 2060, urbanization, bioenergy use, weather patterns, land ownership changes and invasive species will significantly alter the South's forests, a USFS release said Tuesday.

The report was developed using computer models and expert analysis and will serve as a guide as Forest Service personnel look to maintain the vitality and efficiency of forests in the south, the release said.

"The summary report clearly demonstrates the urgent need for developing a collaborative strategy to conserve and restore southern forests," Southern Regional Forester Liz Agpaoa said. "A healthy and prosperous America relies on the health of our natural resources, and particularly our forests."

Rob Doudrick, director of the Forest Service Southern Research Station, said the potential decrease in forest area is equivalent in size to the state of South Carolina.

"Urbanization along with population growth equates to more demands for additional goods and services from a declining forest base. This could have a dramatic impact on our Southern forests," he said.

More than 30 scientists, researchers, foresters and other experts with the Forest Service, state forestry agencies and universities contributed to the study, the USFS release said.

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