After a successful summer inventorying the local boreal forests around Lake Minchumina and McGrath in 2020, the Interior Alaska Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program is returning to the Upper Kuskokwim region in 2021.
Even though Interior Alaska represents approximately 15% of forested land in the entire United States, the region has never been completely inventoried.
From 2014-2020, the project completed inventories of forests in the Tanana Valley and Susitna-Copper watersheds. Last summer, interagency field crews from the State of Alaska Division of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service completed an inventory around Lake Minchumina and a portion of forests around McGrath. In May 2021, they returned to McGrath and will finish by September 7. The FIA will also work in Nikolai until July 11 to complete inventory in this densely forested subregion.
Each day during the summer, field crews will use a helicopter or raft to travel to field sites from McGrath or Nikolai. They will collect information at each site related to trees (species, diameter, height, and damage from insects or disease). Additionally, they will also collect data related to other vegetation and ground cover groups (lichens and mosses), down woody materials, invasive species, soils, and disturbance. This data will be used, along with remote sensing data collected by NASA, to answer large-scale questions related to forest biomass and carbon, tree, and vegetation distribution and change, fire effects and recovery, impacts from insects and disease, and more.
In addition to upcoming fieldwork, a program staff connected with the McGrath School in March. Via the “Meet the Scientist” Zoom meeting, program staff talked with students about forestry, and trees around the community were also measured. The FIA hopes to engage with others interested in this work throughout the summer.