The Buzz: Harvard Forest Scientists Tee Off with Golf Course Experiment

Why would a neglected golf course be of interest to the scientists at Harvard Forest? The answer, 70-acres of open grassland. Transforming the unused Petersham Country Club golf course into a working agricultural landscape is the lead story in Harvard Forest’s newly released 2015-2016 Biennial Report. The site, which has been divided into 10-by-10-meter, long-term study plots, is where Harvard Forest’s Woods Crew together with a team of scientists, conservation groups, and farmers are studying how a working landscape where cattle gaze, trees are harvested, and hay is cut effects plants, soil, and wildlife.

Beside the Harvard Farm project, the report covers a whole range of topics and programs that the organization is pursuing that are supporting sustainability goals throughout New England. Here are highlights from the report: 

Guarding Our Trees: Kathy Fallon Lambert, head of the Science Policy Exchange and Harvard Forest’s Director of Science & Policy Integration, convened top scientists and policy experts to look at how to prevent infestations of pests like the woolly adelgid and the emerald ash borer. Gary Lovett at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, also part of the initiative, has since completed the most comprehensive synthesis to date of the ecological and economic affects imported insects and pathogens have on our trees. Out of this work has come the Tree SMART Trade project that will help safeguard trees.

Mapping the Future: The Landscape Futures Project brings together natural resource and conservation professionals, business owners, government officials, and family forest owners to “narrative scenarios of future landscape change.” The goal of project is to use the narratives to create a high-powered landscape simulation modeling. These simulations could then give policymakers insights into decisions that will sustain New England’s forests and farmlands.

Tree Ring Laboratory: Looking back can tell us a lot about the future. Harvard Forest’s ecologists, Neil Pederson and Dave Orwig, are looking at tree ring samples that can tell the life story of the plant, pinpointing years of stress and rapid growth. Their findings will help build simulation models that operate like real forests do when they respond to drought, intense periods of rain, pest outbreaks, fire, human influence, and extreme storms.

Sugar Maple Seeds: Bullard Fellow Joshua Rapp’s 17-year study Vermont maple trees reveals that connection between a mast see year and how sweet the syrup is. Rapp’s research it is hoped will help syrup producers to plan ahead.

There is much more in the report. Take a look here!