For some, the term experimental forest may conjure images of petri dishes on the forest floor.
“It’s true that Experimental Forests are living laboratories,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Stephanie Laseter. “SRS manages 19 experimental forests. Each one represents a specific ecosystem and provides unique research opportunities.”
Laseter recently organized a five-day tour of eight experimental forests. The forests were all located in the western-most part of the southern region – Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
SRS researchers and forest technicians from across the 13 southern states participated in the tour. Many participants work on experimental forests but had never seen the experimental forests in other parts of the region.
“The tour allowed researchers and technicians to meet their counterparts on other forests,” says Laseter. “We hope this will lead to new collaborations on important science questions.”
“Experimental forests are regional assets for all SRS researchers and their partners,” says Laseter. “Engaging all SRS scientists in these research opportunities will increase the value of the experimental forests.”
Because of the great distances, the tour participants split into two groups. “It was the best way to cover the eight western experimental forests in a one-week period,” says Laseter.
Jim Vose, Jennifer Knoepp, Mac Callaham, and Bryan Mudder traveled to the Alum Creek, Koen, Sylamore, and Tallahatchie Experimental Forests. Local SRS scientists and technicians, as well as university scientists and national forest experts, hosted the participants.
On the final day, the two teams and hosts converged in Oxford, MS. The teams shared experiences with each other and with SRS director Rob Doudrick. Key points include:
- Seeing is believing. EFRs are a unique resource and core strength for SRS. EFRs benefit the entire research establishment in the U.S. and beyond.
- Strategically linking experimental forests will help scientists use multiple EFRs to answer broader scale-questions.
- Despite declining budgets, the people working on SRS EFRs are enthusiastic, dedicated, and engaged. They are contributing time and data toward collaborative projects and want to help build a functional EFR network.
- Much of the current research at EFRs addresses the needs of the Southern Group of State Foresters and National Forest System. However, this work could be greatly enhanced by coordination across an EFR network.
Experimental forests are typically located on or near national forests. At the 19 SRS experimental forests, researchers study a wide range of topics, including forest management, watershed management, and wildlife restoration and management. Researchers also explore the effects of pollution, climate change, and timber harvest.
Research on these lands plays a vital role in the conservation of America’s natural resources.
Planning is underway for similar tours of the remaining SRS EFRs during the coming year, with tour participants being solicited now. In addition, an EFR workshop is being planned for mid-2018.
The workshop participants will bring together the key points from each tour and use that information to develop a framework to advance science across the emerging EFR network.
For more information about the EFR network, upcoming tours, and the EFR workshop, email Stephanie Laseter at firstname.lastname@example.org.