Establishing a research and demonstration area initiated by managers: the Sharkey Restoration Research and Demonstration Site
As forest scientists increase their role in the process of science delivery, many research organizations are searching for novel methods to effectively build collaboration with managers to produce valued results. This article documents our experience with establishment of a forest restoration research and demonstration area in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (LMAV), a region that has experienced extensive afforestation of former agricultural land over the past 15 years. Although basic establishment techniques for production plantations had been developed and applied on small areas, land managers lacked critical knowledge to implement operational-scale afforestation practices that would accommodate multiple forest restoration objectives. In
1993, managers with the US Fish and Wildlife Service made a 1,700-ac agricultural tract available to scientists interested in partnering research and demonstrating various aspects of bottomland hardwood ecosystem restoration. Through collaborative efforts, resource managers and scientists have installed numerous experiments on the Sharkey Restoration Research and Demonstration Site to address relevant issues in afforestation and restoration of bottomland hardwood ecosystems. Development of this research and demonstration area has provided a science-based resource for educating landowners, foresters, wildlife managers, and the general public on afforestation techniques appropriate for restoration of bottomland hardwood forests; has served as
a platform for scientists and land managers to cooperate on the development of innovative approaches to forest restoration; and has provided a venue for education and debate among policymakers active in the LMAV. Early results showed the viability of low-cost techniques such as direct seeding oaks, as well as introducing the interplanting technique for rapid development of forest conditions. We recognize that the value of the research and demonstration site is attributed in part to site characteristics and experimental design, and expect continued work at the location to contribute to improved afforestation practices that will foster establishment of sustainable bottomland hardwood forests.