Scientists say Arizona’s overcrowded forests are affecting the natural processes of a healthy ecosystem. Past studies have shown that much of Arizona’s ponderosa pine forests have hundreds of trees more per acre than existed prior to 1900.

This overstocking has had dramatic impacts on the hydrologic cycle, as well as related impacts to range conditions and wildlife habitat. In addition, where fire was once a welcome visitor to the forest in helping to thin trees and recycle nutrients, fire now is prone to explode into a catastrophic stand-replacing wildfire.

The effects of climate change are likely only to make matters worse.

To find out how the forest ecosystem responds to landscape-scale forest-restoration efforts, the Ecological Restoration Institute (ERI) at Northern Arizona University and Salt River Project (SRP) are teaming up in an unprecedented research project through 2013.

Findings from the half-million-dollar study are expected to help the Forest Service and stakeholders of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, or 4FRI, make science-based decisions that benefit watersheds in the 2.4 million-acre forest-health project across the Mogollon Rim.

Findings from the NAU-SRP hydrologic study are expected to have far-reaching implications, helping land managers with large-scale forest-restoration projects across the Southwest.

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