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Stress Test: The Condition and Possible Future of Forests and Rangelands in the United States

This article is from Issue Facts to the Future - Vol. 5 No. 1.

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The scientists in this study were asked to identify which areas of forest and rangeland in the United States might become more stressed in the future. 

Welcome to the Facts to the Future edition

Education Standards Correlations


Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Earth Science
  • People and Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • Importance of Forest to People (Students)
  • Protecting Trees and Other Plants (Students)
  • The Value of Forests and Grasslands (Educators)
  • Wildlife and Endangered Species (Educators)

Regions covered in this article:
  • Alaska
  • Intermountain
  • Northern
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Pacific Southwest
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Southern
  • Southwestern

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
Scientists often work with things called variables. A variable can be anything, as long as it can be measured or placed into a category. Length of hair is a variable. The number of students in a class is a variable. Age, heart rate, and eye color are variables too! When scientists do their research, they often look for relationships between variables. Scientists find a relationship between variables when they discover a pattern of change between them. For example, there is a general relationship between the height and weight of middle school students. As students get taller, they usually weigh more. Scientists typically focus on the measurement of a special kind of variable, called a dependent variable. Dependent variables are called this because their value depends on the values of one or more other variables. The other variables are called independent variables. When you write a paper, you earn a particular grade (the dependent variable). Your grade depends on the values of many other independent variables, such as the accuracy of what you write, your grammar, sentence structure, spelling, neatness, and whether you turned your paper in on time.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Characteristics of Scientists
  • The Scientific Process

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
The scientists in this study were interested in identifying forest and rangeland areas of the United States where the natural environment might become more stressed in the future. They picked seven conditions that indicate how stressed the natural environment is. These conditions included things like the number of native birds living in an area and how much water was flowing in streams. The scientists considered many changes that might affect these conditions. They assumed that the changes that would place the most stress on the environment are the ones caused by human activity. This included things like how many people are living in an area, how much of the land is built up with homes and businesses, and how much of the land is used for cattle grazing. Change is a normal part of the natural environment, but natural change usually takes a long time to occur, and the environment has time to adapt to the changes. When people make changes to the natural environment, the change is usually faster. If the environment does not have time to adapt to changes, it might become more stressed.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Adaptation
  • Ecosystems
  • Human impact on natural resources and other living things

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Populations and ecosystems (C)
  • Populations, resources and environments (F)
  • Risks and benefits (F)
  • Science and technology in society (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)

Science Benchmarks covered in this article:
  • Common Themes: Constancy and Change
  • Habits of Mind: Communication Skils
  • Habits of Mind: Critical-Response Skills
  • Human Society: Social Change
  • Human Society: Social Trade-Offs
  • The Living Environment: Interdependence of Life
  • The Nature of Science: Scientific Inquiry
  • The Nature of Science: The Scientific Enterprise
  • The Physical Setting: The Earth