The overall forest cover of New York State may have reached a peak, according to a new federal report.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service conducted an inventory of forests in the state between 2008 and 2012 and found that while forested land is increasing in some areas, fragmentation and invasive pests are destroying trees elsewhere.
Some 63 percent of the state is currently covered by forest, according to the Forest Service report, and while the forested area increased significantly throughout the 20th century, the overall amount of forest land has only gone up by 2 percent since 1993.
Some of the major problems stopping the growth of new forest include development for housing, roads or other human uses and the expansion of the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) and the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), two insect species from Asia responsible for killing trees in many parts of North America.
Michael Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory, said in a press statement that maintaining healthy forest ecosystems is sound science.
“The Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program of the USDA Forest Service is developing science-based tools and knowledge that can help public and private land managers make decisions that will assure healthy, sustainable forests that are more resilient.”
Private land managers own around 75 percent of the state’s forest land, or 14.2 million acres.
“Decisions by forest owners today will shape the future of New York’s forests,” said Richard Widmann, a forester with FIA and lead author of the report, in a release. “Forest sustainability will depend on owners practicing stewardship and conservation.”
|Joshua Rapp Learn is a science writer at The Wildlife Society.