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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.