Alaska's natural resources sustain our communities and people

IANRE researchers are studying the effects of climate change on Interior Alaska's boreal forest. Warming temperatures, unpredictable precipitation patterns and melting permafrost are putting stress on trees, while allowing other plants such as shrubs to expand their range. Some areas have been continuously studied for 35 years.


Research seeks the best time to harvest trees to shorten firewood drying time

While studying how trees take up snowmelt and rainwater, Jessie Young-Robertson noticed dramatic seasonal variations in the water content of the trees, particularly in deciduous trees like birch and aspen.

Most of her research was undertaken between March and September but in 2018, she extended her research through the winter —and made a surprising discovery.

Young-Robertson, a forest ecologist with the UAF Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said that scientists believed that trees dried down immediately after losing their leaves. Sensors in birch trees showed, surprisingly, that the trees dumped 70 percent of their water content into the soil in a 24-hour period in late October. The water dump correlated with a drop in temperatures. It followed one day in which temperatures stayed below freezing.

She knew that trees dropped moisture in the fall. “The surprise was how much and how fast,” she said.

The finding could be significant because fall is a popular time to harvest firewood. Depending on when the trees are harvested, the wood could be very wet or much drier.

Further research is needed, but she believes that the information being collected may hold a key to reducing wintertime air pollution in Fairbanks caused by residents burning green firewood.

Renewable Resources Extension Act helps landowners and managers manage resources

The Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA) was established in 1978 to assist forest and range landowners and managers in making resource management decisions based on research findings. It is funded through a federal grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA.  Forest and rangeland resources include vegetation, water, fisheries and wildlife, soil, and recreation. 

IANRE researchers are investigating 

  • Trees and water
  • Forest management
  • Boreal forest ecology
  • Firewood
  • Wildfires
  • Climate change
  • GIS