Lessons from 72 years of monitoring a once-cut pine-hardwood stand on the Crossett Experimental Forest, Arkansas, U.S.A
The Crossett Experimental Forest was established in 1934 to provide landowners in the Upper West Gulf Coastal Plain with reliable, science-based advice on how to manage their loblolly (Pinus taeda) and shortleaf (Pinus echinata) pine-dominated forests. A key component of this program was the establishment of an unmanaged control, currently known as the Russell R. Reynolds Research Natural Area (RRNA). Originally intended to show how the lack of regulation reduced sawtimber production compared to more intensively managed stands, the once-cut RRNA is now recognized as an increasingly scarce example of an undisturbed,mature pine-hardwood stand. This, in turn, has led to studies on forest succession, coarse woody debris, old-growth stand structure conditions, and biomass accumulation patterns. Long-term (72 years, to date) research has shown, as an example, that the RRNA has sustained >33 m2 of basal area and over 240 Mg of aboveground live tree biomass per hectare for decades, values that are near the upper end of temperate forest ecosystems (outside of rainforests). These high levels are made possible by the abundance of large pines; however, pine mortality and natural successional patterns in this undisturbed stand will likely result in declining biomass in the near future. Additional work is possible regarding endangered species habitat and paleoclimate change, and there is potential for studies on invasive species effects on mature, unmanaged forests. Monitoring will continue indefinitely on the RRNA.