Investigator:

Stella Cousins

Advisor: William Burch

Description:

I am conducting an analysis of forest health in forests fragmented by exurban sprawl. The study will focus on comparison of two watersheds in northwest Connecticut Highlands, the Shepaug and Bantam watersheds, which are located in the upper Housatonic Valley. This research project will constitute the bulk of my Master of Forest Science thesis research; I will be cooperating with staff from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and Department of Environmental Protection.

Selection of the site was based on previous GIS analysis on projected growth and forest fragmentation conducted by UConn's Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR). It is a project of the Forest Health committee, CT Statewide Forest Resource Plan.

This project identifies a simple set of key measurable indicators that provide early warning of failing forest ecosystems or evidence of strengthening ecosystems, tests the reliability of those key indicators and creates protocols through which those indicators can periodically be checked to monitor trends in the forest ecosystem.  Those protocols will be directly linked to existing layers of GIS-based data/models and to identifiable critical public benefits derived from forests. Following evaluation and modification of this grant-funded pilot, statewide application of the proven monitoring system will aid natural resource decision-makers in mitigating weaknesses in the complex web of ecosystem interdependence across forested landscapes.