By Dave Merrill and Lauren Leatherby
There are many statistical measures that show how productive the U.S. is. Its economy is the largest in the world and grew at a rate of 4.1 percent last quarter, its fastest pace since 2014. The unemployment rate is near the lowest mark in a half century.
What can be harder to decipher is how Americans use their land to create wealth. The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure.
Using surveys, satellite images and categorizations from various government agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the U.S. into six major types of land. The data can’t be pinpointed to a city block—each square on the map represents 250,000 acres of land. But piecing the data together state-by-state can give a general sense of how U.S. land is used.
By Scott Miller
New insights into the impact forests have on surface temperature will provide a valuable tool in efforts to mitigate climate change, according to a new research paper co-authored by Clemson University scientist Thomas O’Halloran.
For the first time, scientists have created a global map measuring the cooling effect forests have by regulating the exchange of water and energy between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere. In many locations, this cooling effect works in concert with forests’ absorption of carbon dioxide. By coupling information from satellites with local data from sensors mounted to research towers extending high above tree canopies, O’Halloran and his collaborators throughout the world have given a much more complete, diagnostic view of the roles forests play in regulating climate.
Their findings have important implications for how and where different types of land cover can be used to mitigate climate change with forest protection programs and data-driven land-use policies. Results of their study were recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
By Andrew Arbuckle
Farming and forestry have traditionally been at odds over the use of land but moves are being made to bridge the gap by increased forestry grants for landowners facing an otherwise uncertain rural future.
Specialists from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) have urged farmers and land managers in the north of Scotland to think hard about how woodlands could fit into their future plans and what recent changes in the Scottish Government grants available could mean for them.
Douglas Priest, a forestry specialist with SAC Consulting, which is part of SRUC, said that, within the new “Native Woodland Target Area” for Highland Scotland there were higher payments available for establishing native Scots pine, upland birch and broadleaves.
“In essence the forestry grant scheme payments for these have been increased by £400 per hectare, with additional help for deer fencing and bracken control,” he said.
“There are a multitude of reasons why so many areas of the Highlands would benefit from woodland cover and this is a great time to think seriously about it. We can help with technical forestry advice and [with] the application process.”
Compared with many places in the rest of Europe, Scotland, at 17 per cent, has very low forest cover but this is expected to rise with the governments’ target of planting 15,000 hectares a year by 2025.