Hill Demonstration Forest Joins Experimental Forest Network

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A v-notch weir at the Hill Forest measures water flow and calculates streamflow using water level measurements in the stilling well (white pipe). Photo by Johnny Boggs, USFS.

The USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station and the North Carolina State University College of Natural Resources recently signed an agreement adding NC State’s Hill Demonstration Forest to the SRS Experimental Forest Network.

The Hill Demonstration Forest covers more than 2,600 acres in the Carolina Slate Belt and has a variety of forest types and conditions. It will be added as a cooperating experimental forest – a status that preserves its current ownership and management while recognizing its vital contributions to the Network.

The agreement strengthens the long-standing partnership between the institutions. For twelve years, SRS and NC State scientists have conducted forest management experiments and collected hydrology data at Hill Demonstration Forest to better understand forest and water processes in the North Carolina Piedmont region. The agreement also creates additional research opportunities.

“Our vision of the Network has always included our partner forests. It’s beyond our Forest Service locations. It’s exciting to see the first agreement signed and ready. We believe it’s the first of many!” says Stephanie Laseter, SRS Experimental Forest Network co-lead.

Experimental forests and ranges provide unique opportunities for Forest Service scientists and partners to conduct experimental studies. These research projects are often designed to assist public land managers with practical questions.

“We are thrilled to be joining the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station’s network of experimental forests and to be part of a program that shares our mission of advancing conservation of our nation’s natural resources. This partnership will provide new opportunities to increase knowledge around key areas critical to the health of our forests and planet,” says Myron Floyd, dean of the NC State College of Natural Resources.

Currently, the Network includes 19 experimental forests, and Hill Demonstration Forest will be the first cooperating experimental forest. Having experimental forests in the different ecological landscapes of the southeast is essential.

“There are some limits in the geographical range covered by the Network, and one way to broaden that coverage is by working with our university and industry partners,” says Johnny Boggs, SRS Experimental Forest Network co-lead.

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Tree transpiration measurements help researchers refine our understanding of forests’ role in the hydrologic cycle. Photo by Johnny Boggs, USFS.

Studies on the Hill Demonstration Forest have led to forest hydrology discoveries and influenced forest managers’ work to protect water quality in the Piedmont.

One study by SRS scientists on the Hill Demonstration Forest documented the effects of clearcut harvesting on water quantity and quality at a watershed scale. Researchers selected small adjacent pairs of watersheds and harvested timber in one watershed of each pair. The other watershed was left untreated as an experimental control.

In addition to continuing research opportunities, SRS will also install Forest Inventory and Analysis plots on the Hill Demonstration Forest to collect forest inventory and health data. This is part of a trend to install FIA plots on all experimental forests and a larger effort to create a more cohesive Network.

“I would like to thank the NC State College of Natural Resources for their commitment to supporting Forest Service research in the past and the future. The addition of the first cooperating experimental forest in the Southeast will strengthen our network by allowing us to answer more questions and solve issues facing our forests,” says Rob Doudrick, SRS station director.

Learn more about the SRS Experimental Forest Network.

To learn more about adding a university forest to the SRS Network, please contact Johnny Boggs at johnny.boggs@usda.gov and Stephanie Laseter at stephanie.laseter@usda.gov.

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