Regional Participants Gather at the Fourth Experimental Forest Workshop

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A new cross-site study plan will focus on improving shortleaf pine restoration in the South. Photo by David Stephens, courtesy of Bugwood.org.

About 30 USDA Forest Service scientists gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina this month for the fourth workshop in a series about reinvigorating the SRS network of Experimental Forest and Range sites.

The group included 17 SRS scientists, in addition to FIA, EFR sabbatical recipients, university collaborators, and two partners from the Southern Region of the National Forest System.

The primary objectives were to 1) finalize a cross-site study plan; 2) create an implementation plan for FIA plots across the EFR network; 3) discuss partnership opportunities with the network; and 4) further develop metrics for the network database.

Last year, the group met in Little Rock, Arkansas to solidify the purpose, structure, and goals of the network. This year, the group focused on specific elements of the network’s functioning. One breakout group focused on formalizing the internal governance of the network.

“A network needs a mechanism by which you submit a proposal for funding along with a body to make those decisions,” says Stephanie Laseter, SRS-Southern Region liaison. Going forward, the group plans to form an advisory group to review proposals and base the process on existing models. “The network is looking for projects that span multiple EFRs, address big questions, and include local and regional partners,” adds Laseter.

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Participants at the workshop came from across the region, with ties to many different experimental forests, including the Crossett Experimental Forest in Ashley County, Arkansas. USFS photo.

Dan Olsen, forest supervisor of the Daniel Boone National Forest was on hand to discuss partnerships in eastern Kentucky.  He emphasized the importance of shared stewardship as a strategy for shared decision making and working across boundary lines. The National Forest System, universities, and Southern Research Station form a great coalition across eastern Kentucky to help answer broad-scale regional forestry questions.

The cross-site study plan working group put finishing touches on one such project, focused on the most effective methods for shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) restoration in southern forests. This is a multi-phase proposal to sample the current extent and model future extent across the experimental forest network, coupled with a genetic study.

Additionally, workshop participants drafted a plan for installing FIA plots across all 19 SRS experimental forests. Their goals are to better understand baseline vegetation conditions, facilitate cross-site comparisons, and provide SRS and partner scientists with standardized datasets for new studies on the experimental forests. FIA data collection could begin as early as the spring of 2020.

Senior research ecologist Jim Vose emphasized the importance of coordination across the experimental forest network. “Network-wide data collection and sharing are critical for answering large scale questions and identifying trends and patterns that generate new questions. We want to make the SRS experimental forest network a template for doing both new science and current science more effectively,” says Vose.

Learn more about the SRS network of Experimental Forests.

For more information, email Stephanie Laseter at stephanie.laseter@usda.gov.

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