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Dr. Charles D. Canham

Forest Ecologist | PhD, 1984, Cornell University

Expertise: forest ecology and management, biofuels

2801 Sharon Turnpike; P.O. Box AB
Millbrook NY 12545-0129, USA

845 677-7600 x139

Charles Canham studies the dynamics of forest ecosystems and how they respond to a wide range of human impacts.  Using field research, novel statistical methods, and computer models, Canham predicts forest response to factors including climate change, introduced pests and pathogens, logging regimes, and air pollution.  

Northeastern forests have been a critical source of carbon sequestration to combat climate change, and can also potentially provide a renewable energy source.  Canham and his collaborators have developed methods to assess the tradeoffs between managing forests for carbon sequestration versus biomass energy production to ensure that forest biomass energy is truly carbon neutral.

All of Canham’s work builds on a neighborhood theory of forest dynamics he has developed through research in forests around the world.  The theory, and the computer model that encapsulates it, are particularly valuable in his work to explore the development of new forestry that can simultaneously maximize the ecological benefits of species diversity and carbon sequestration and the production of high-value forest products, through selective logging.

For over 30 years, Canham’s primary site for field research has been at Great Mountain Forest (GMF) in northwestern Connecticut.  He serves on the GMF Board of Trustees, which manages the site for research and education. He also serves on the boards of three environmental non-profits focused on the Adirondack region of New York.

He has just completed a draft of a book, Forests Adrift, to be published by Yale University Press, which focuses on the future of northeastern forests.  His next book will focus on advancing the ecological foundation of a new forestry for the northeastern United States.

Current Research

Development of a Neighborhood Theory of Forest Ecosystem Dynamics

Canopy trees exert strong and highly localized effects on ecosystem processes, and synergisms in the interactions of mixtures of different species are common. These processes are not readily incorporated in traditional models from either community ecology or ecosystem science. Spatially-explicit, neighborhood-scale models offer an approach that can integrate population, community, and ecosystem ecology.

Effects of Small and Large Mammals on the Dynamics of Northern and Southern Hemisphere Temperate Forests

Research in temperate forests of North America focuses on linkages between tree seed production, small mammal distribution and abundance, and seedling establishment, and on the effects of browsing by white-tailed deer. Research in temperate forests of New Zealand focuses on the effects of introduced small and large mammals.

Ecology and Sustainable Management of Temperate Forests

Through a collaboration with the British Columbia Ministry of Forests we are using the SORTIE model to understand the long-term dynamics of a diverse temperate coniferous forest, and to explore partial cutting as an alternative to clear-cutting. I am also working with a group to use the Forest Inventory and Analysis datasets from the U.S. Forest Service to parameterize SORTIE for use in exploring strategies for sustainable management of forests of the northeastern U.S.

Watershed-scale Analysis of Variation in the Chemistry of Adirondack Lakes

We are using a modeling approach to exploring links between Adirondack lake chemistry and the configuration of forests and wetlands within the watershed of over 500 watersheds in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.

Hurricanes & the Dynamics of Temperate & Tropical Forests

We are using SORTIE to compare the effects of hurricanes on the tropical forests of Puerto Rico and the temperate forests of southern New England.

Canham, Charles D., Lora Murphy, R. Riemann, Richard McCullough, and Elizabeth Burrill. 2018. “Local Differentiation In Tree Growth Responses To Climate”. Ecosphere 9 (8): e02368. doi:10.1002/ecs2.2368.
Coates, K.D., Erin Hall, and Charles D. Canham. 2018. “Susceptibility Of Trees To Windthrow Storm Damage In Partially Harvested Complex-Structured Multi-Species Forests”. Forests 9 (4): 199. doi:10.3390/f9040199.
Ostfeld, Richard S., Taal Levi, Felicia Keesing, K. Oggenfuss, and Charles D. Canham. 2018. “Tick-Borne Disease Risk In A Forest Food Web”. Ecology 99 (7): 1562 - 1573. doi:10.1002/ecy.2386.
Brown, Michelle L., Charles D. Canham, Lora Murphy, and Therese M. Donovan. 2018. “Timber Harvest As The Predominant Disturbance Regime In Northeastern U.s. Forests: Effects Of Harvest Intensification”. Ecosphere 9 (3): e02062. doi:10.1002/ecs2.2062.
Buechling, Arne, P. H. Martin, and Charles D. Canham. 2017. “Climate And Competition Effects On Tree Growth In Rocky Mountain Forests”. Journal Of Ecology 105 (6): 1636 - 1647. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12782.
Canham, Charles D., and Lora Murphy. 2017. “The Demography Of Tree Species Response To Climate: Sapling And Canopy Tree Survival”. Ecosphere 8 (2): e01701. doi:10.1002/ecs2.1701.
Bigelow, S. W., and Charles D. Canham. 2017. “Neighborhood-Scale Analyses Of Non-Additive Species Effects On Cation Concentrations In Forest Soils”. Ecosystems 20 (7): 1351 - 1363. doi:10.1007/s10021-017-0116-1.
Thompson, Jonathan R., Charles D. Canham, Luca Morreale, David B. Kittredge, and Brett Butler. 2017. “Social And Biophysical Variation In Regional Timber Harvest Regimes”. Ecological Applications 27 (3211013): 942 - 955. doi:10.1002/eap.1497.
Canham, Charles D., and Lora Murphy. 2016. “The Demography Of Tree Species Response To Climate: Seedling Recruitment And Survival”. Ecosphere 7 (8): e01424. doi:10.1002/ecs2.1424.
Schnurr, Jaclyn L., and Charles D. Canham. 2016. “Linkages Among Canopy Tree Neighbourhoods, Small Mammal Herbivores And Herbaceous Communities In Temperate Forests”. Journal Of Vegetation Science 27 (5): 980 - 986. doi:10.1111/jvs.2016.27.issue-510.1111/jvs.12437.
Lovett, Gary M., Marissa Weiss, Andrew M. Liebhold, Thomas P. Holmes, Brian Leung, Kathleen F. Lambert, David A. Orwig, et al. 2016. “Nonnative Forest Insects And Pathogens In The United States: Impacts And Policy Options”. Ecological Applications 26 (5): 1437 - 1455. doi:10.1890/15-1176.
Buechling, Arne, P. H. Martin, Charles D. Canham, Wayne D. Shepperd, and Mike A. Battaglia. 2016. “Climate Drivers Of Seed Production In Picea Engelmannii And Response To Warming Temperatures In The Southern Rocky Mountains”. Journal Of Ecology 104 (4): 1051 - 1062. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12572.
Canham, Charles D., and Lora Murphy. 2016. “The Demography Of Tree Species Response To Climate: Sapling And Canopy Tree Growth”. Ecosphere 7 (10): e01474. doi:10.1002/ecs2.1474.
Forsyth, David M., Deborah J. Wilson, Tomas A. Easdale, Georges Kunstler, Charles D. Canham, Wendy A. Ruscoe, Elaine F. Wright, et al. 2015. “Century-Scale Effects Of Invasive Deer And Rodents On The Dynamics Of Forests Growing On Soils Of Contrasting Fertility”. Ecological Monographs 85 (2): 157 - 180. doi:10.1890/14-0389.110.1890/14-0389.1.sm.
Sheffer, Efrat, Charles D. Canham, Jaime Kigel, and Avi Perevolotsky. 2015. “Countervailing Effects On Pine And Oak Leaf Litter Decomposition In Human-Altered Mediterranean Ecosystems”. Oecologia 177 (4): 1039 - 1051. doi:10.1007/s00442-015-3228-3.
Rollinson, Christine R., Margot W. Kaye, and Charles D. Canham. 2015. “Interspecific Variation In Growth Responses To Climate And Competition Of Five Eastern Tree Species”. Ecology. doi:10.1890/15-1549.1.
Bigelow, S. W., and Charles D. Canham. 2015. “Litterfall As A Niche Construction Process In A Northern Hardwood Forest”. Ecosphere 6 (7): art117. doi:10.1890/ES14-00442.1.
Marks, Christian O., and Charles D. Canham. 2015. “A Quantitative Framework For Demographic Trends In Size-Structured Populations: Analysis Of Threats To Floodplain Forests”. Ecosphere 6 (11): art232. doi:10.1890/ES15-00068.110.1890/ES15-00068.1.sm.
Sheffer, Efrat, Jaime Kigel, Charles D. Canham, and Avi Perevolotsky. 2014. “Predicting The Formation Of A New Upper Canopy Strata After Colonization Of Native Shrublands By Pines”. Forest Science 60 (5): 841 - 850+. doi:10.5849/forsci.13-038.
Canham, Charles D., Wendy A. Ruscoe, Elaine F. Wright, and Deborah J. Wilson. 2014. “Spatial And Temporal Variation In Tree Seed Production And Dispersal In A New Zealand Temperate Rainforest”. Ecosphere 5 (4). doi:10.1890/ES13-00384.1.