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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, May 23, 2024
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USDA Forest Service to Resume Fourth Inventory of the U.S. Virgin Islands Forests

Late morning at Trunk Bay, Virgin Islands National Park, on St. John (photo by Chuck Munson)

The USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA), will soon resume the inventory of the forests of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John this year. This is part of a federal effort started in 1930 to collect, analyze and report information on the status and trends of America’s forests. The remeasurement began in 2020 but stalled during the pandemic.

The inventory will be coordinated by Belinda Ferro, an ecologist with the Southern Research Station’s FIA program. The work will be done by an expert team of biological scientists in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF).

Information from the inventory will be useful for assessing the sustainability of ecosystem management practices, evaluating wildlife habitats, and supporting forest planning and decision-making. The team will collect data on how much forest exists, where it exists, who owns it and how it is changing, as well as how the trees and other forest vegetation are growing and how much has died or been removed in recent years.

The Virgin Islands’ fourth inventory will be followed by re-measurements every year to track changes in forest cover, land use patterns, biological diversity, and hurricane damage and recovery.

The inventory in the USVI is changing from a 5-year remeasurement cycle to an annual cycle to make it more efficient and effective in capturing forest dynamics.

“Our goal is to help residents, legislators, and agencies understand the uniqueness of island ecosystems and the significant ecological changes they have been experiencing recently,” said Ferro. “Reports on forest conditions will distill information about the current situation and recent trends along with what the future might look like if trends continue unchanged. With better information, resource managers can make more informed decisions based on the most current state of the forests, including damage from hurricanes, loss to development, the effects of climate and invasive, non-native species,” he said.

After the forest surveys are completed, the information will be analyzed and published in a 5-year report by the Southern Research Station. It will also be available for downloading from the Forest Inventory and Analysis website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/research/programs/fia.

For more information, contact Belinda Ferro at 865-862-2091 or Belinda.Ferro@usda.gov.

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