“The network of experimental forests and ranges administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) consists of 77 properties that are representative of most forest cover types and many ecological regions in the nation. Established as early as 1908, these sites maintain exceptional long-term databases on environmental dynamics and biotic responses. Early research at these sites focused on silviculture, ecosystem restoration, and watershed management. Over time, many properties have evolved into a functional network of ecological observatories through common large-scale, long-term experiments and other approaches. Collaboration with other institutions and research programs fosters intersite research and common procedures for managing and sharing data. Much current research in this network focuses on global change and interdisciplinary ecosystem studies at local to global scales. With this experience in developing networks and compiling records of environmental history, the experimental forests and ranges network can contribute greatly to the formation of new networks of environmental observatories."(1)
The vision behind the USDA experimental network is quite different from that of the National Park System. Our national parks where founded in order to preserve ‘exceptional’ pieces of our country. The experimental forests and ranges were established because they are representational pieces of land. An appreciation for this vision is important if we hope to maintain a healthy planet. Gaining an appreciation for each biome and a clearer understanding of how this system works, as a whole, is vital. In the face of such threats as global climate change, it is large-scale environmental networks that will be paramount in providing researchers with both the data to identify and the solutions to solve these problems.
1.) Lugo et al., Long-term Research at the USDA Forest Service’s Experimental Forests and Ranges, BioScience, Vol. 56, No. 1, pp. 39-48, January 2006.7..