Project Description


The second half of the twentieth century saw significant residential deconcentration including peripheral growth on the outer edges of urban areas as well as selective growth in rural areas in New Hampshire (Johnson 2007). Such rural development was common in forested rural areas on the periphery of urban areas and in amenity-rich areas that attracted retirees, footloose professionals and second-home owners. Most of this selective deconcentration was fueled by migration (Johnson and Stewart 2005, 2007; Johnson et al. 2005; Mockrin et al. 2013). Changes in housing density fostered by this demographic change have profound implications for ecosystem services as well as traditional forest resources.

Project Description

Perforation, fragmentation, and parcelization of forests by residential development has been hypothesized to have a range of impacts, including increased prevalence of invasive species, changes in fire frequency and fire management options, reduction in water quality, and altered wildlife populations (e.g. Brown et al. 2005; Hansen et al. 2005). Residential development can directly reduce carbon storage through the conversion of forests within the physical footprint of houses and lawns (Zheng et al. 2012, 2013). However, parcelization of forests may also cause timberland to slip below a minimum size threshold for economically viable timber harvest (Egan et al. 2007). The attitudes of newcomers toward traditional land uses (such as timber harvesting) are likely to differ from those of long-time residents. These factors point to a potentially complex relationship between residential development and ecosystem services, as well as the capacity of forest ecosystems to sequester carbon and their resiliency to novel forces such as climate change.


We are combining newly available fine-scale housing density data from the decennial Census of 2010 with existing forest characteristics, demographic and remote sensing data to examine the relationship among residential development patterns, spatial variations in forest cover and ecosystem change in New Hampshire. The combination of spatial data on residential housing density with data on forest characteristics offers a unique opportunity to understand patterns of forest change and the implications of such forest change for ecosystem services. Our analysis of forest change and the role of residential land use in such forest change contributes new insights relevant to a broad range of ecosystem services of interest to our colleagues on the EPSCOR project including water supply, albedo and carbon storage.


The EPSCoR Land Use and Demography effort is funded by NSF EPSCoR, and leverages additional funding to the investigators from the USDA Forest Service and the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station.

Potential Uses

Assessing patterns of recent change in population density, housing, land cover, forest characteristics and carbon sequestration in New Hampshire.