Southern Research Station Experimental Forests

The SRS maintains 19 experimental forests located on or near National Forest System lands. Scientists in research work units use these as sites for their studies and demonstration projects in conjunction with the managing national forest unit. Experimental forests are designated to represent a specific ecosystem or forest type, and to present opportunities for the study of different approaches to sustaining forested ecosystems. Several of the experimental forests in the South were selected for their potential to demonstrate rehabilitation of deteriorated farm forests and soil resources that occurred during early European settlement and plantation farming of the region.

Among the experiments conducted on these forests are studies on stand management and regeneration; restoration of wildlife and plant populations; watershed management; and the effects of pollution, climate change, and timber harvest. Many experimental forests also provide educational and nonmotorized recreation activities, including interpretation to enhance public understanding of forest management principles. Research on experimental forests plays a vital role in the conservation of America’s natural resources.

State Experimental Forest National Forest Acres Date Established
Alabama Escambia (Private) 2,990 April 01, 1947
Arkansas Alum Creek Ouachita 4,281 April 02, 1959
Arkansas Crossett Ouachita 1,675 January 1, 1934
Arkansas Henry R. Koen Ozark 720 September 17, 1951
Arkansas Sylamore Ozark 4,290 March 28, 1934
Florida Chipola Federal/Leased 2,760 March 28, 1934
Florida Olustee Osceola 3,135 March 28, 1934
Georgia Hitchiti Oconee 4,602 September 17, 1938
Georgia Scull Shoals Oconee 4,487 December 04, 1961
Louisiana Palustris Kisatchie 7,515 July 19, 1935
Mississippi Delta (Private) 2,580 June 14, 1961
Mississippi Harrison Desoto 4,111 July 19, 1934
Mississippi Tallahatchie Holly Springs 4,569 April 12, 1950
North Carolina Bent Creek Pisgah 5,242 June 25, 1927
North Carolina Blue Valley Nantahala 1,400 June 23, 1964
North Carolina Coweeta Nantahala 5,482 March 28, 1934
South Carolina John C. Calhoun Sumter 5,082 October 08, 1947
South Carolina Santee Francis-Marion 6,000 July 06, 1937
Texas Stephen F. Austin Angelina 2,560 September 19, 1945

Alum Creek Experimental Forest

The Alum Creek Experimental Forest is a 2000-acre experimental forest in the Ouachita Mountains that has been managed for hydrology research since 1948. The Jessieville Work Center, affiliated with the Jessieville and Winona Ranger District of the Ouachita National Forest, is used to support this research.

Bent Creek Experimental Forest

Bent Creek Experimental Forest the first to be established in the South, is one of the oldest research areas maintained by the Forest Service. Its purpose was to provide opportunities for the systematic development of experiments in silvicultural practices. Since 1925, before its establishment as an experimental forest, scientists have been developing and demonstrating sound forestry practices at Bent Creek. Their research both early and current on fire, insects, diseases, timber, wildlife, and water is being applied over much of the Southern Appalachians. With an increasing intensity of land use throughout the region and around the country, research conducted at Bent Creek is important to the sustainability of the South’s forested lands.

Current research is focused on:

  1. Understanding the distribution and productivity of forest vegetation as a function of the controlling environmental variables
  2. Understanding the structural and compositional dynamics of forest vegetation in relation to both natural and human-imposed disturbance regimes
  3. Relating wildlife habitat to forest structure and composition
  4. Synthesis and integration of research information to provide decision support to forest managers

Blue Valley Experimental Forest

Established in 1964 to provide a focal area for silvicultural research of eastern white pine and associated hardwoods, the 1200-acre Blue Valley Experimental Forest is located near Highlands, North Carolina. Blue Valley typifies white pine-dominated portions of the southern highlands escarpment. The experimental forest area receives more than 70 inches of precipitation annually, but has infertile soils derived from decomposed granite. Current investigations include single tree selection and regeneration cutting/underburning of white pine-hardwood forests.

Calhoun Experimental Forest

The Calhoun Experimental Forest, located in the Sumter National Forest near Union, South Carolina, was established in 1947 for work on serious Piedmont forest, soil, and water problems. The Calhoun’s initial location was determined to represent the “poorest Piedmont conditions” of soil erosion and cropland abandonment. Early studies on the Calhoun were aimed at soil improvement and watershed restoration in order to find the cheapest, quickest, most effective ways to improve tree growth and soil structure, runoff and sedimentation, and increase soil fertility for plants.

Current research includes the long-running collaborative study with Duke University in which the biogeochemistry of soil and vegetation has been monitored, sampled, and archived since 1957. Techniques to control subterranean termites and impacts of even- and uneven-aged management on wood quality. Forests of the Calhoun are actively managed by the National Forest System to allow future research opportunities.

Three seriously eroded watersheds are being re-gaged to continue watershed experiments that began in 1947.  The experimental forest has recently become one of the nation's nine Critical Zone Observatories in a long-term project that brings together 15 scientists from six universities, colleges, and the USDA Forest Service.

Chipola Experimental Forest

The Chipola Experimental Forest is located in the panhandle area of Florida near Clarksville. It is partly in Federal ownership, and partly leased. Its purpose was to restore unproductive dry sandy sites back to healthy forests. The Forest Service conducted valuable research on the Chipola and in the process reforested much of the site with growing productive forests. Over the years priorities and needs have changed. As lands became excess to the needs of the Forest Service, they have been released from the lease leaving the acreage under lease at about 700 acres.

Two major areas of research, genetics of longleaf pine and tests of termite control, remain active on the Chipola Experimental Forest. The genetics studies on longleaf pine are the last remaining ones of their type and thus are very important. These test plots are just now reaching the age of mature growth where differences are going to become more apparent. This information is made more critical by the trend for extending rotation lengths on longleaf pine. The Chipola is the major dry test site for termite control studies started in the late 1950s. New treatment methods are being tested and will be compared to previous treatment methods for effectiveness.

Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory

The Coweeta Experimental Forest was set-aside in 1934 with a research emphasis on watershed management; and measurements of rainfall, streamflow, climate, and forest growth began. These have been continuously monitored since. In 1948, the site was renamed Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory. In the early 1980’s, Coweeta was selected by the National Science Foundation as one of 11 sites in the Nation for the Long-Term Ecological Research Program. The Coweeta Basin is ideal for hydrologic research. Local rainfall is usually plentiful 80 to 100 inches per year. Solid bedrock underlying the soils permits hydrologists to account for most of the rainfall that enters the basin. The valley contains numerous small watersheds; many are similar in size, climate, and vegetation.

Each of the experimental watersheds has a weir in its stream to measure the flow of water. The weir is an accurate stream-gauging station. The height of the water behind the weir blade is continuously monitored by automatic recorders. The heights, along with the characteristics of the opening of the weir, permit calculation of streamflow day and night, storm and sunshine, throughout the year. Silt that accumulates in the ponding basin behind the weir may also be measured. These measurements show how natural or human disturbances to the watershed change stream characteristics. Research work at Coweeta has provided internationally important information about the effects of timber harvesting, road construction, and natural disturbance in watersheds.

Crossett Experimental Forest

The Crossett Experimental Forest is a 1780-acre experimental forest in the upper West Gulf Coastal Plain that has been managed for research purposes since 1934, making it one of the oldest active experimental forests in the U.S. Three of the unit’s technical staff members are located on this forest. The buildings at the Crossett are shared with the Ashley County office of the Arkansas Forestry Commission.

Delta Experimental Forest

This 2600-acre bottomland forest is owned by Mississippi State University and managed by the Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research under a long-term cooperative agreement. Regeneration techniques for hardwood plantations on heavy clay soils are being developed and evaluated on the Delta Experimental Forest. The nearby Sharkey Restoration Site, on the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Sharkey County, is the focus of coordinated, interagency research. A "megacosm" controlled flooding facility on the Sharkey Site permits comparison of reforestation techniques on a large scale.

Escambia Experimental Forest

The Escambia Experimental Forest was established through a 99-year lease agreement with the TR Miller Mill Company of Brewton, AL. This 3,000-acre tract in southwest Alabama was selected as typical of second-growth longleaf pine forests that, at the time, covered about 6.2 million acres in south Alabama and northwest Florida. Research on the Escambia was initially aimed at solving the principal management problems associated with longleaf pine, including natural regeneration, management alternatives, growth and yield, rotation lengths, thinning regimes, forest grazing, and economic costs and returns.

Today, the Escambia Experimental Forest constitutes a unique example of longleaf pine ecosystems in all stages of development. The forest supports continuing long-term research studies and management demonstrations. Research has involved all aspects of longleaf pine natural regeneration, including development of the shelterwood system for this species. Other long-term studies and demonstrations include stand management and management alternatives; growth and yield of even-aged natural stands in relation to age, site quality, and stand density; and fire ecology, including long-term effects of season and frequency of prescribed fire, or fire exclusion.

Harrison Experimental Forest

The Harrison Experimental Forest is on the DeSoto National Forest, 25 miles north of Gulfport, MS. The Agency chose the site because its soils and appearance mirrored the South’s 31 million acres of coastal forest land. By the 1930’s, loggers had almost completely clearcut these vast stretches of southern pine. In some areas, residual trees produced seed for natural regeneration. Much more often, however, few seed trees remained to start the regeneration process. The seedlings that did sprout soon succumbed to cattle, feral hogs, palmetto competition, fire, or pest infestations.

Some of the earliest studies on the Harrison involved fire behavior and wood preservation. Scientists on the Harrison introduced water spray as a preprocessing preservative. This technique is still in use at sawmills today. Early trials of fence posts treated with various preservatives have been revisited every year since 1939. The problems with planting and growing trees and reestablishing forests soon became the primary focus for research at the Harrison. One important effort the southern pine seed-source study got underway to match regeneration sites with seed sources and to determine how far seeds could be moved without jeopardizing regeneration.

Long after the seed-source study results were reported, the plantings for this study continued to be useful for new research, such as efforts to determine the genetic basis of pest resistance, variation in wood quality, and effects of climate on pine growth. Most recently, Harrison’s scientists have begun evaluating the original genetic variation of the plantings with a vision toward long-term gene preservation.

Since 1956, the Harrison has been home to the Southern Institute of Forest Genetics (SIFG). The institute’s research on the inheritance of growth, form, and pest resistance of forest trees has guided tree improvement programs across the South. Some of its most recent research on DNA markers is being used to help incorporate resistance into the American chestnut needed to reestablish a species that has been obliterated from the forests of the East by the chestnut blight.

While planting trees and reestablishing forests were needed early in the century, sustainability is now the collective vision for southern forests. The South needs new knowledge and guidance on how to manage biological and ecological systems within a social and economic context. The SIFG scientists are working to discover the principles of heredity that operate in southern forests and to show how those principles may be applied in sustaining forest quality and productivity.

Hitchiti Experimental Forest

The 5000 acre Hitchiti Experimental Forest is located about 65 miles southwest of Athens, GA and is the site of the Brender Demonstration Forest, a cooperative effort by the Southern Research Station and the Georgia Forestry Commission to showcase pine management for nonindustrial private landowners.

Henry R. Koen Experimental Forest

The 720-ac Henry R. Koen Experimental Forest, part of the Ozark National Forest, is located south of the Buffalo River near Jasper, AR. The Experimental Forest was established in 1951 to develop scientific principles for forest management. The site was named for Henry R. Koen, once the forest supervisor of the Ozark National Forest, whose conservation career lasted four decades in the first half of the 1900s. Research at the site focused on upland hardwood forests through 1979 with a staff of 4 scientists and a team of 12 technicians.

Currently the Henry R. Koen Experimental Forest serves as the fieldwork base for SRS-4157 upland hardwood research throughout Arkansas. Seventeen studies are being implemented by a staff of 1 scientist and 2 permanent technicians. This integrated contemporary research program addresses upland hardwood forest dynamics and the development of both short- and long-term studies at three scales: individual tree, stand, and region. These studies address: growth, woody species reproduction, competitive capacity, stand dynamics, stand composition, forest species restoration, quantitative silviculture, development of forest management methods, forest ecology, disturbance ecology, landscape ecology, climate change, biomass management and diversity of Arkansas upland hardwood forests.

Olustee Experimental Forest

The 3500-acre Olustee Experimental Forest was established near Lake City, FL in 1931. For more than 60 years, Olustee was the site of research on gum naval stores, genetic improvement of forest trees, insuring maximum survival and growth of plantations, and protecting the forest from damage by insects, disease, and fire. Although the Research Work Unit at Olustee was closed in 1996, the Southern Research Station continues to maintain the experimental forest for long-term experiments and as a reservoir for genetic material of historic value and continuing scientific interest.

Palustris Experimental Forest

The Palustris Experimental Forest is an area of the Kisatchie National Forest designated by Congress to conduct forestry research. The forest is named Palustris in recognition of the species longleaf pine that was prevalent in the region prior to the great harvesting of virgin pine forests in the early 1900's. The Palustris consists of two separate tracts, which total about 7,500 acres in size. The area was used by pioneer Southern Forest Experiment Station (now Southern Research Station) researchers to develop early reforestation techniques for the four major southern pines. Studies have provided the information to convert a region of decimated forests to one where forestry is of leading economic importance.

The JK Johnson Tract, located 18 miles southwest of Alexandria, LA, is the site of numerous long-term studies, such as a longleaf pine planting spacing, prescribed burning, pruning, and a thinning regime study that is now 60 years old. It also serves as the area for plantings of shorter-term studies evaluating seedling physiology. At this tract, studies are underway to evaluate the effects of global climate change on forest productivity and to devise management strategies to reduce such effects. These studies require very intensive measurements of tree and stand morphology and physiology, and involve cooperative efforts with organizations and agencies outside the Forest Service.

The Longleaf Tract, about 35 miles south of Alexandria, LA, has been the site of some of the most intensive multiresource research in the South. Since the mid-1940's, the interactions of cattle grazing, wildlife management, and timber production have been evaluated. Current research emphasis includes evaluations of effects of forest management practices on long-term soil productivity.

Numerous long-term (30 to 60 years) growth data sets have been collected for longleaf, loblolly, and slash pine. These data are the basis of growth and yield prediction systems that have been developed for these species. Other studies quantifying intensive soil and tree physiology measurements have been underway for about 10 years.

The Palustris Experimental Forest continues to serve as a field research laboratory, a demonstration site for new forestry practices, and an area to develop potential cooperative relationships. Federal, State, university, and forest industry scientists work together to address the forest concerns that now face the State, region, and Nation.

Santee Experimental Forest

Forest Service scientists have been working in the Charleston area since 1937, when 6,000 acres of the Francis Marion National Forest were set aside to establish the Santee Experimental Forest. Early work helped establish the basis for managing loblolly pine, a key commercial species in the South. Current work focuses on sustainable management of the coastal plain forests, with emphasis on productivity, biodiversity community dynamics and carbon cycling.

Scull Shoals Experimental Forest

The 4,500 acre Scull Shoals Experimental Forest near Athens, Georgia is the site of several silvicultural research studies since 1961.

Stephen F. Austin Experimental Forest

The Stephen F. Austin Experimental Forest is located 8 miles southwest of Nacogdoches, TX, on the Angelina National Forest. It was designated with the objective of wildlife and timber management research. It contains approximately 1,800 acres of mature, bottomland hardwoods with the remainder being southern pine and mixed pine/hardwood forest. The site is used as an outdoor classroom in the study of forest ecosystems by students majoring in forestry, wildlife management, forest recreation, and environmental science. In 1990, management objectives were expanded to include educational and recreational opportunities for the general public. The Stephen F. Austin Interpretive Trail, which is wheelchair-accessible, was completed in 1997.

Current research studies relate primarily to understanding and maintaining populations of wildlife species that have, or are becoming threatened, endangered, or sensitive. A long-term study involves inoculating trees with a heartrot fungus to enable cavity dwellers, such as red-cockaded woodpeckers, to create cavities in younger trees. Studying the natural formation of snags, or snag dynamics, is important to many species that are dependent on standing, dead trees as a critical part of their habitat. Work with amphibians, snakes, and alligator snapping turtles also occurs on the Stephen F. Austin.

Sylamore Experimental Forest

The Sylamore Experimental Forest, established in 1934, was the first and is the largest experimental forest in Arkansas. Located in Stone County, Arkansas, near the community of Mountain View, the Sylamore Experimental Forest was the site of many important early research projects on the management of upland hardwood forests. The Sylamore is remote, consisting of 4,290 ac and is surrounded by national forest. The Sylamore EF is dominated by oak-hickory forest. Currently, research activities are coordinated by the Southern Research Station; administratively, the forest is identified as Compartment 102 on the Sylamore Ranger District of the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, which coordinates management activities there in support of research. Recent research includes forest dynamics and fire history.

Tallahatchie Experimental Forest

Located near Oxford, MS the Tallahatchie Experimental Forest contains several small forested basins. Streams in these basins have been instrumented since 1959 to monitor precipitation, air temperature, barometric pressure, streamflow, and water chemistry. The information gathered is used to evaluate sediment transport processes, sediment and nutrient routing, and the effects of clear-cutting on these processes.




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