College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

Ecosystem Response to Global Change


Acclimation of Roots and Microbes to Soil Warming investigates respiratory temperature acclimation in roots, mycorrhizae and the microbial community and whether such acclimation is a short-term, direct physiological adjustment to warmer temperatures (days to months) or a longer term response to changes in nutrient, moisture and C availability and mycorrhizal status as the ecosystem adjusts to long-term warming (years).  The experiment examines the potential impact of adjustments in root system activity on ecosystem productivity and the potential for soil CO2 efflux to be a positive feedback contributing to greater atmospheric CO2 increase and warming.  (Burton, Lilleskov)


The Climate Change in Peatlands: Warming/Water Level Alterations research addresses several fundamental questions regarding the interactive effects of warming and water manipulations on peatland carbon cycling and how they are modified by peat chemistry and vegetation changes.  (Chimner, Doskey, Pypker) 

sugar maple

Effects of Climate Variation on the Ecohydrology of a Northern Hardwoods Forest examines the effects of current short-term and past long-term variation in climate on water use of trembling aspen and red maple. We measure short-term effects of climate on tree water use with sap flux probes, and we investigate long-term interannual patterns of growth and water use efficiency using dendrochronology and tree-ring stable carbon isotope techniques (13C).  By exploring patterns of the past, the potential effects of future climate change on these species is better understood. (Cavaleri) 


The Forest Loss Indicators project uses remote sensing and landscape metrics to identify indicators of forest loss and degradation, either due to human activity or climate change. Changes in forest patch size distribution has proven to be a useful tool to examine the impact of land use change and habitat protection in the Zagros forests in western Iran. (Mayer, Falkowski, Webster)


The week-long Global Climate Change Teachers Institute provides middle and high school teachers with professional training, hands-on activities and visits to ongoing state-of-the-science field experiments investigating the impacts of climatic change, elevated CO2 and O3levels, nitrogen saturation, acid rain, and invasive species on terrestrial ecosystems.  The participants develop new classroom curricula to present this knowledge to their students.  (member instructors: Burton, Janowiak, Lilleskov)


The Michigan Gradient Study is a long-term investigation (est. 1987) of the effects of climate and atmospheric pollutant deposition on forest productivity and ecosystem processes in northern hardwood forests. (Burton, Lilleskov)

The Midwestern Regional Center of the DOE National Institute for Climate Change Research (NICCR) is sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy to mobilize university researchers, from all regions of the country, in the support of the climatic change research.  Subcontracts for over $7.5 million in research grants for the 13 state Midwest region are run through the center. (Burton director, Fisher manager)


The Northern Forest Ecosystem Experiment & Aspen FACE (Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment) are a multidisciplinary study that has assessed the effects of increasing tropospheric ozone and carbon dioxide levels on the structure and function of northern forest ecosystems for 11 years Aspen FACE) plus 1 year of sprout regrowth (NFEE) after harvest of the original experiment.  (Burton) 


Sugar Maple Dieback in the Upper Great Lakes Region research assesses the extent of the current dieback in maple and the rate of change over recent years.  With a network of 120 plots on different ownerships in upper MI, WI, and MN, we aim to identify the dieback etiologies and relationships with climate, soil fertility, and management practices.  With these understandings, we will develop management guidelines for use in industry and public forests to help prevent, anticipate, reduce, or salvage stands of northern hardwoods with maple dieback in the future. (Storer, Jurgensen, Richter)


The Fuel Consumption and Carbon Cycling in Northern Peatland Ecosystems research project addresses the issue of increasing fire potential and severity in northern peatland systems. The overarching goal is to develop an understanding of how peat moisture content influences the fire regime, ecosystem processes, and CO2 emissions in northern peatlands. This study links laboratory and field-based studies with airborne and satellite remotely sensed data to carefully characterize and monitor peat moisture content and thermal properties of peat fires. The resulting data will ultimately be employed to assess fire vulnerability and estimate CO2 emissions from peatland fires. (Falkowski, Kane) 


sugar Maple Water Use in Response to Warming investigates the effects of experimental warming and irrigation on the water use of a sugar maple dominated hardwood forest.  We measure tree transpiration rates using sap flux probes, and we investigate changes in the depth at which trees access water using stable isotope techniques (2H and 18O). We aim to improve predictions about how sugar maple ecohydrological cycles may change with incipient climate change.  (Cavaleri) 

Carbon Sequestration and Bioenergy


The Canopy Zip-line Project investigates how tree water relations and canopy micro-climate influence leaf morphological traits of canopy trees.  With these data, we aim to refine models of whole-forest gas exchange and physiological function at the stand level and also improve our ability to extrapolate forest function across landscapes. Sugar maple tree canopies are accessed for data collection using a unique zip-line cable system, climbing ropes, and a portable tower. (Cavaleri)


Carbon Sequestration in Tropical Forests, conducted in collaboration with the Forestry Institute in Ghana (FORIG), is refining methods to calculate biomass and carbon content of tropical forest plantations in Ghana. (Burton, Storer)


Quantifying Trade-offs Between Managing Native Forests and Grasslands for Bioenergy and Biodiversity will improve our understanding of how plant communities currently being considered for bioenergy development can be managed to produce a commodity and to retain native biodiversity.  We have examined bird community characteristics across a gradient of plant community richness among grasslands in southern Wisconsin, and across a range of aspen forest age classes with legacy trees in northern Wisconsin.  We also examined how arthropod communities respond to plant community diversity within the grassland treatments (Flaspohler, Webster). 

Wildlife Ecology


The Interactive Effects of Invasive Rats and Forest Fragmentation on Nest Survival, Density, Foraging Behavior, and Site Fidelity of Native Hawaiian Birds is a project aimed at understanding how introduced rats influence bird demography and food web characteristics in naturally fragmented Hawaiian forests.  This 5-year project involves removal of non-native rats from forest fragments of varying size and monitoring of reproductive success, density, movement patterns and foraging behavior among native and non-native birds (Flaspohler) 


The North American River Otter Indicator project quantifies the information we can gather about landscape-scale fragmentation of aquatic ecosystems (e.g., by land use and roads) based on the population connectivity of otter populations in the western Upper Peninsula. The project is using remote cameras to monitor road crossings by otters, and will use remote sensing imagery plus DNA analysis of otter feces to map the residency and dispersal of the UP's otter population. An overlay of the landscape genetics of the species onto a land use/land cover and transportation map should allow us to identify barriers to gene flow and dispersal for species like the otter that stay close to aquatic habitats. (Mayer) 


The goal of the Top-down Control of Biogeochemical Hotspots in Forest Ecosystems Project is to combine recent evidence of biogeochemical change occurring at predator kill sites with long-term (50-yr) behavioral ecology data of a large carnivore, the grey wolf (Canis lupus).  The general question addressed is how does the social behavior of a top-predator affect the landscape distribution and heterogeneity of biogeochemical change that occurs at kill-sites?" (Bump) 


The Remote Sensing of Conifer Encroachment in Sage Grouse and Lesser Prairie Chicken Habitats projects are focused on using high spatial resolution aerial imagery and cutting edge processing algorithms to detect conifer encroachment in critical habitats for two threatened species. Conifer encroachment has drastically altered and degraded habit for both Sage Grouse The Lesser Prairie Chicken. These data are then being used to develop maps of juniper density and canopy cover, which will be subsequently used to prioritize treatment areas for habitat restoration. (Falkowski, Bump)


Habitat Selection by the Karner Blue Butterfly. The recovery of the Karner blue butterfly is a flagship in endangered species conservation. The Evaluation of Habitat Selection by the Karner Blue Butterfly between Michigan Tech and the Wisconsin DNR is a research study focused on understanding key underlying factors that drive Karner persistence at both field and landscape-levels. This study evaluates the effects of disturbance/maintenance, field metrics and habitat composition across the habitat range in Wisconsin in order to aid ongoing restoration efforts. (Storer, Graduate student Anna Hess)

wolf and moose

The Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale, and their interactions, have been studied continuously and intensively since 1958. This is the longest study of any predator-prey system in the world. (Vucetich, Peterson) 

Aquatic Ecosystem Ecology Restoration


The Stream Ecosystem Responses to Salmon Nutrient Enrichment Treatment project is aimed at understanding how the loss of spawning, migratory salmon in central Idaho streams has altered microbially-driven production and nutrient cycling.  We also study how these ecosystem processes may or may not be restored through additions of nutrient mitigation tools like inorganic fertilizer, processed fish meal, and salmon carcasses. (Marcarelli) 


The Coaster Brook Trout of the Salmon Trout River are the focus of a long-term research conducted to understand the ecology, genetics, and population status of this life-history variant of brook trout.  These brook trout mature in Lake Superior and then migrate up the Salmon Trout River; Marquette County to spawn and perpetuate this verified remnant population (Huckins).


The Effects of Sediments on the Salmon Trout River Ecosystem project examines the how sand aggradation in river channels resulting from watershed disturbance influences fish habitat use, ecosystem processes, and the fluvial food web.  In this project we are conducting sand removals to restore coaster brook trout spawning habitat and to examine the effects these fine sediments have on ecosystem processes and fish habitat use (Huckins, Marcarelli). 

Invasive Species


Exotic Earthworm Invasion in Upper Great Lakes Forests. The invasion of European earthworms into forested ecosystems in the Great Lakes region causes detrimental changes to the forest understory and soils, and these changes have cascading negative impacts within ecosystems.  Our research examines patterns of earthworm invasion to identify potential stand and landscape level drivers of earthworm abundance and community composition, to assess the impact of earthworms within forests, and to predict the current and future distribution of earthworms.  The results of these studies improve our understanding of invasion patterns, habitat preferences, and potential impacts of exotic earthworms in Great Lakes forests.  This knowledge, in turn, can drive forest management decisions to limit spread into uninvaded sites and mitigate negative impacts in invaded sites. (Storer, Shartell)

Decomposition Process


The FACE-Wood Decomposition Study is using isotopically labeled wood, harvested from the Aspen FACE site to determine the importance of wood as a contributor to soil organic carbon (SOC).  Field experiments are being conducted to track the fate of wood-derived carbon into distinct soil C pools as modified by soil texture (coarse and fine), fungal inoculation (white rot, brown rot, and natural rot), wood quality (wood grown under ambient, elevated CO2, and elevated CO2 + O3), wood location (surface and buried), and temperature (ambient and warmed).  Taking advantage of stable carbon isotope techniques, we have a unique opportunity to contribute to the understanding of the transformation of biomass into long-lived SOC pools. (Resh, Kane, Richter)