Project News

Stories written by WRI staff that highlight recent news and information related to southern forests.

Like the Holidays, Ecosystem Services Are All Around

By Nick Price and Logan Yonavjak

During the winter holidays, there are many items that Americans consider “essential” as part of a proper celebration; whether it be a wreath on the door, wood for a cozy fire, or an ornamented tree in the living room. But how many people know where most of these items come from? Often, these everyday holiday products are sourced directly from forests in the southern United States.

COP-10 Provides Opportunity to Recognize Biodiversity at Home

By Logan Yonavjak and Nick Price

From October 18th to 29th, 2010, heads of state and government officials from the United Nations’ 192-member states will hold the 10th international meeting devoted to the promotion and protection of global biodiversity. Their aim at this tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-10) is to adopt a new strategic plan to stop worldwide biodiversity loss over the next ten years, with targets for 2020 and a new biodiversity vision for 2050. This meeting is in conjunction with the first ever International Year of Biodiversity, as declared by the United Nations, where the world is invited to take action to safeguard the variety of life on earth.

Many people cite the Amazon rainforest or the forests of Indonesia as centers of biodiversity, boasting colorful, endemic plants and animals, and what seems like a new species discovery every day. Yet the United States is also considered a center of biodiversity, especially in the forests of the South.

Southern Forests for the Future: Essay Competition


  • 1st Prize: $1000
  • 2nd / 3rd Prizes: $500
  • Entry Deadline: January 15, 2011
  • Submit Entries To:

Featured Map: Protected Areas at Risk Due to Suburban Sprawl

According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), suburbanization will result in more than 12 million acres of southern U.S. forest being cleared or impacted between 1992 and 2020. Forests provide people with “ecosystem services,” by protecting urban watersheds and wildlife habitat, controlling erosion, and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Unless there are changes in the pattern of development that now favors low density housing, strip malls, and exurban road construction, the USFS estimates that from 2020 to 2040, suburban growth will lead to another 19 million acres of forest loss. In total, this loss is approximately 31 million acres, an area about the size of North Carolina. The USFS also recently released a report that details the impact increasing housing density is having on ecosystem services from forests across the U.S. and identifies the South as a region particularly at risk.

Mountaintop Removal Cuts Through Southern Forests

New maps from show the scale of forest loss from surface mining in Appalachia.

Mountaintop removal has become an increasingly contentious issue over the past several decades, particularly in the southern United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that by the end of 2010, 1.4 million acres of Appalachian forests will have been disturbed or cleared by">mountaintop removal, an area larger than Delaware. And a recent decision by the Army Corp of Engineers has suspended fast-track permitting for mountaintop removal operations in Appalachia. But why is this mining practice so controversial? Where is it taking place? And what impact is it having on forests?

Presentations from the 3rd Annual Ecosystem Markets Conference

The Annual Ecosystem Markets Conference convened the world’s top thought leaders to determine how to drive ecosystem service markets forward. Co-hosted by the American Forest Foundation (AFF) and the World Resources Institute (WRI), the 3rd Annual National Ecosystem Markets Conference was held in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina on June 23-24, 2010.

WRI and AFF Host the 3rd Annual Ecosystem Markets Conference - June 23-24, 2010

Update: A complete list of presenters with many of their presentations are now available online.

The World Resources Institute and the American Forest Foundation are co-hosting the 3rd annual Ecosystem Markets Conference in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina on June 23rd and 24th. The conference will feature national and regional experts, innovators, and hands-on users of these evolving market models and bring them together in a dialogue about: recent progress in developing markets, transactions that can be done now, strategies for scaling up markets, how these markets will affect family forests and other landowners, and how state and regional efforts can merge into a common model.

Suburbanization Spreads Through U.S. Southern Forests

By Nick Price

New Google maps show the drivers of change that impact southern forests in the United States., WRI’s new website designed to illustrate features and threats to southern U.S. forests, recently released a new Google Earth version of southern forest maps. This new feature allows users to explore WRI’s popular southern forest maps in Google Earth to visualize just how rapidly these forests are changing.

Teacher Guides Available for 9-12th grade Educators

By Logan Yonavjak

The World Resources Institute (WRI) has created a series of Teacher Guides for the Southern Forests for the Future project to provide teachers and educators with tools to incorporate and the accompanying publication in 9-12th grade classrooms. These guides, found at, were created in collaboration with Creative Change Educational Solutions, a nonprofit organization that provides sustainability-based curricula, training, and programming.

For U.S. Forests, REDD Begins at Home

By John Talberth and Logan Yonavjak

Four months after the Copenhagen Accord, the interest and discussions about reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries – colloquially known as REDD plus – continues. Clearly, helping developing countries implement comprehensive initiatives to protect their forests is a sensible investment; however, new satellite mapping technologies – such as those highlighted on, the World Resources Institute’s new web-based mapping portal – show that deforestation and forest degradation is occurring in the United States as well. As the United States considers funding to conserve forests in the tropics, it is equally imperative that we take a look at what is happening in its backyard and consider the role that our forests can serve in reducing the impacts of climate change.

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