Stephen F. Austin Experimental Forest
The 1,036-ha Stephen F. Austin Experimental Forest is the only such forest established by an act of Congress. It became an experimental forest in 1945 with the creation of the East Texas Branch Station in Nacogdoches, Texas, which was later renamed the Wildlife Habitat and Silviculture Laboratory.
Until about 1961, the Austin was used primarily for silvicultural research. Beginning in the early 1960s, the forest was increasingly used for wildlife research. Initial wildlife studies focused on game species (especially deer and squirrels), but current wildlife research concerns mostly nongame species.
Located on the Western Gulf Coastal Plain, the Austin experiences hot, humid summers and mild winters. Rainfall averages about 1270 mm per year. About half of this rainfall occurs during the April through September growing season.
The Mantachie-Marietta soils of the bottoms are loamy and somewhat poorly drained to moderately well drained. They are frequently flooded and have moderate permeability. The upland terraces consist of Attoyac-Bernaldo-Besner soils, which are loamy, well-drained soils of level to gently sloping sites with moderate permeability.
Upland portions of the Austin (about 364 ha) consist of loblolly and shortleaf pine and pine-hardwood stands. Mature bottomland hardwoods occupy the remaining two thirds of the forest. The dominant hardwoods throughout the Austin include many species of oaks and hickories.
Databases are maintained on the development of heart rot fungi that were inoculated into hardwoods in the 1970s, and snag population dynamics.
Research, Past and Present
The following topics have been studied at the Austin:
- Hardwood control and pine harvesting methods
- Effects of hardwood removal on deer
- Effects of prescribed fire on mushrooms
- Impacts of different levels of shading on the production and fruiting of important wildlife browse plants
- Life history of timber rattlesnakes
- Succession of anuran (frog) communities in constructed wildlife ponds
- Habitat use and movement patterns of alligator snapping turtles
- Food habits of wintering waterfowl
- Effects of acid rain and ozone on pine growth
- Life histories of several woodpecker species
- Use of artificial cavities by prothonotary warblers
- Wildlife use of nest boxes in four habitat types
- Wildlife use of artificial snags
- Woodpecker use of bottomland hardwood snags
- Inoculation of hardwoods with sapwood decaying fungi
Major Research Accomplishments and Effects on Management
Studies on the Austin established effective control methods for undesirable hardwoods. Much of our knowledge about managing southern forests for wildlife (especially white-tailed deer) was derived from studies on several experimental forests, including the Austin. Considerable knowledge about habitat requirements for several woodpeckers also was derived from studies on the Austin.
The establishment language specifies that the Austin will be available to the Stephen F. Austin Teachers College (now Stephen F. Austin State University). The Natural Resource Conservation Service maintains the East Texas Plant Materials Center on the Austin. Since the development of the SFA Interpretive Trail System, the forest is receiving increased use for conservation education.
The 688-ha mature bottomland hardwood forest, which is being retained as old growth, represents a unique and rapidly disappearing resource in east Texas. The rivers, streams, and sloughs of the Austin are unique sites for various aquatic studies. The interpretive trails offer and opportunity to study the benefits of conducting forest and wildlife management demonstrations to help educate the public about different forest management practices.
USDA Forest Service facilities include an office, shop, gas/oil and chemical storage building, pole barns, and improved dirt roads. The SFA Interpretive Trail System consists of 4.8 km of trail (including 1.5 km of universally accessible trail), picnic and parking area, information kiosk, interpretive signing, bird observation area, several 15-m bridges over Jack Creek, drinking fountains, and flush toilets. The East Texas Plant Materials Center also has an office with a conference room, seed-processing building, and several pole barns. There are 3 water wells on the Austin.
Lat. 31°28′ N, Long. 94°47′ W
Stephen F. Austin Experimental Forest
USDA Forest Service
Southern Research Station
Wildlife Habitat and Silviculture Laboratory
506 Hayter Street
Nacogdoches, TX 75965-3556
Tel: (936) 569-7981
Summary information presented here was originally published in:
Adams, Mary Beth; Loughry, Linda; Plaugher, Linda, comps. 2004. Experimental Forests and Ranges of the USDA Forest Service. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-321. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station. 178 p.
(Information may have been updated since original publication.)