Increasingly, forests face multiple stresses from insect outbreaks, invasive species, wildfires, disease, pollution, fragmentation, natural disturbances, and human impacts. In the face of these threats, forest managers are challenged to maintain forest ecosystems that provide environmental services, economic return, and recreational and aesthetic value to landowners and society as a whole.
Good scientific information about emerging problems and complex interactions is crucial to ensure that management decisions today do not compromise the long-term health of forests.
The Program on Forest Health is engaged in education, research, and dissemination of scientific information to inform policy decisions affecting the health of forested ecosystems and landscapes. We emphasize (a) maintaining the long-term ecological health of forests in the face of increasing biotic, abiotic, and societal pressures, and (b) developing management solutions for sustaining and restoring healthy forests and the communities that depend on them.
Combining Yale's academic and research expertise with the practical experience of private sector leaders, we bring diverse stakeholder communities together to develop innovative management strategies and solutions to forest health problems, while promoting interdisciplinary assessments of critical forest health issues. Our research, forums, and publications provide policy-makers and the public with topical, scientifically-based information. As part of the School's curriculum, we offer courses, seminars, and workshops, for students and stakeholders and for public awareness. Graduate-level courses in forest health, fire science and policy, and invasive species are taught as part of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies curriculum.
Each year wildfires consume thousands of acres of forest vegetation, including critical wildlife habitat and other forest resources. Fires at the wildland-urban interface often destroy homes, businesses, community infrastructure, and recreational facilities. Our goals are to research and understand the links between forest management, forest health, and fire, including the inter-relatedness of fire and other forest health problems such as insect outbreaks and exotic invasive species. Projects include research on the economic costs of wildfire at the urban-wildland interface and use of prescribed fire to achieve forest management goals. Research on fire effects on forest vegetation, and the converse -- the effects of forest composition and structure on fire behavior --is being undertaken in the "Sky Islands" of West Texas and Mexico as well as in boreal Alaska. A recent project resulted in the development of a decision support system for managing trees along public utility right of ways to reduce power outages complications resulting from tree failure from disease and/or storms.
The IUCN rates invasive species as second only to habitat loss as the greatest threat to global biodiversity. The impacts on forested ecosystems from exotic invasive species are numerous, varied, and usually irreversible resulting in ecological and economic losses. Current projects include forums, workshops, and publications on threats and effects of invasive species; research on managing invasives in fire-dependent ecosystems; and control of invasive plants to protect endangered species habitat. Forest Fragmentation -- Fragmented forests are much more susceptible to invasive insects, plants, and diseases. We are collaborating with the GISF Program on Private Forests to understand the extent, pattern, rate, and effects of forest fragmentation in the United States.