News and Events
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s … birds attacking a Jamaican boa? In a recent study by USDA Forest Service scientists Richard Schaefer and Craig Rudolph (retired), along with colleagues from Jamaica and Washington, DC, the previously undocumented mobbing of Jamaican boas is brought to scientific light.
In 2019, Janet Hinchee, the USDA Forest Service Regional Silviculturist for the South invited me to coordinate the Southern Pine Module, a ten day workshop for the Forest Service National Advanced Silviculture Program. But this year, the field session was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Janet Hinchee was really disappointed that the session might be cancelled, and she asked the best question – why not do the lecture part online? I guess you could say I reluctantly agreed!
In Nacogdoches, Texas, a USDA Forest Service office is located on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA). When not in the field, it’s where research wildlife biologist Dan Saenz works. Saenz works closely with SFA professors. As a guest lecturer in 2007, he met Erin Childress, who was an undergraduate student at the time. Childress would go on to work with Saenz for years, finish her undergraduate and graduate work, and become a professor at SFA.
In 1733, Peter Collinson, a botanist and cloth merchant, walked with great excitement to the ship docks in London. He picked up two boxes of seeds from an American farmer named John Bartram. With these exotic seeds, Collinson transformed English gardens. In return, Collinson sent Bartram seeds from England and other countries. Andrea Wulf discusses this great seed exchange and friendship in her book, The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession. It’s a fascinating read. But Wulf fails to address the unintended ecological consequences of this innocent exchange.
White-nose syndrome has been spreading through U.S. bat populations since 2006 and has caused mass die-offs in various regions of the country. The syndrome is caused by Pd (Pseudogymnoascus destructans), a fungus that invades the skin of bats while they hibernate. White-nose syndrome (WNS) symptoms include dehydration and irritation. These symptoms awake the bats frequently from hibernation, depleting the fat reserves they need to survive winter.
On March 3 and 4, 2020, about 25 silviculturists, foresters, fire management officers, timber specialists, and other USDA Forest Service experts gathered for a two-day workshop on shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata). In the southern Appalachians, shortleaf pine restoration is a major priority for national forests and others. The species has an extensive range but its acreage has declined by more than half over the past few decades.
From the trees in the forest to the various organisms populating it, all species of plants and animals have periodic life cycle events. Changes in climate have impacted the timing of these life cycle events for many species. This, in turn, can affect how likely coexisting populations are to interact with each other.
Over the past 48 years, Seminole bats (Lasiurus seminolus) have drastically expanded their range. “The northern edge of their summer range has expanded by 323 miles,” says Roger Perry, a USDA Forest Service research wildlife biologist. “That’s approximately 7 miles a year since 1970.”
For every stage of forest succession, there’s a bird species that needs it. But others are flexible, thriving in many types of forests. The blue-gray gnatcatcher, eastern wood-pewee, great crested flycatcher, summer tanager, and white-breasted nuthatch are all associated with mature forests.
But a recent study suggests these birds are forest generalists rather than mature forest obligates.
CRiSPE represents a framework for centralizing research being done by the Southern Research Station on the restoration and management of southern pine ecosystems. This story map provides an overview of unit and personnel locations, unit research, experimental forests, and southern pine ranges.
Silvicultural histories are recognized by forestry professionals from the United Kingdom to Arkansas. The Editorial Board of Forestry, an international journal of forest research, recently awarded USDA Forest Service research forester Don Bragg the 2017 Percy Stubbs, John Bolton King and Edward Garfitt Prize for Silviculture for advancing silviculture research.
Caroline C. “Carrie” Dormon was shaped by her family’s influence and interest in nature. Today she is recognized as a woman who excelled in a male dominated world – as well as a pioneer conservationist, forester, botanist, illustrator, and native plant enthusiast.
Butterflies are the charismatic megafauna of the insect world. Who doesn’t admire the stripes on an Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), the eye spots on the Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus), or the amazing journey of the Monarch (Danaus plexippus), flying from Canada to Mexico to return to a place only known to its great-grandparents?
In 1733, Peter Collinson, a botanist and cloth merchant, walked with great excitement to the ship docks in London. He picked up two boxes of seeds from an American farmer named John Bartram. With these exotic seeds, Collinson transformed English gardens.
In return, Collinson sent Bartram seeds from England and other countries. Andrea Wulf discusses this great seed exchange and friendship in her book, The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession. It’s a fascinating read. But Wulf fails to address the unintended ecological consequences of this innocent exchange.
Centuries ago, a tree was plucked out of its native ecosystems and introduced to the U.S. Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera) is a showy tree with waxy seeds and heart-shaped leaves.
Every autumn, its leaves turn crimson or orange before falling to the ground – or the water. “Chinese tallow invades wetlands and riparian areas in the Southeast,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Daniel Saenz.
In wetlands, the fallen leaves can kill frog and toad eggs, as Saenz and others showed in 2012.
Protection and restoration of open pine ecosystems — woodlands dominated by large pine trees spaced about 50 feet apart with sparse mid-story and shrub layers and a rich herbaceous layer — in the Coastal Plain of southern Arkansas has been a high priority of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and partners for over two decades. One of the two pines within this ecosystem, shortleaf (Pinus echinata), has the largest range of any of the pines in the southeastern United States.
On a misty November day, 15 gardeners gathered in front of the Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs, Arkansas. They brought their shovels and many pots of native plants.
“We installed about 30 different species,” says U.S. Forest Service forestry technician Virginia McDaniel. McDaniel designed the garden with Susan Hooks, Ouachita National Forest botanist.
Before the Crossett Experimental Forest existed, two engineers-turned-lumbermen began rehabilitating the cutover ‘pineywoods.’
“In 1925, Leslie Pomeroy and Eugene Connor bought the Ozark Badger Lumber Company,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Don Bragg. “The company was small and nearly defunct, and Pomeroy and Connor turned it into a profitable, long-term example of uneven-aged silviculture.”
“I’ve spent years working in these shortleaf pine woodlands and always wondered about the availability of snags, especially given their importance to bats,” says U.S. Forest Service research wildlife biologist Roger W. Perry.
Prescribed fire is an important and widely used management tool, but the smoke produced can cause air quality issues and health problems. Before conducting prescribed fires, managers typically model the amount of smoke a fire will produce, which is directly related to the amount of fuel available.
The 4,660-acre Alum Creek Experimental Forest was established in the late 1950s in the upper headwaters of the Lake Winona Basin near Jessieville, Arkansas. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station Southern Pine Ecology and Management unit, Alum Creek is affiliated administratively with the Ouachita National Forest.
In the early 20th century, steam-powered logging equipment arrived in the longleaf pine forests of the southern U.S. Coastal Plain, and the “golden age of lumbering” began. When the sawdust settled, millions of acres in the region – especially along the Western Gulf Coast – were barren.
Since it was established in 1934, the Crossett Experimental Forest has served as the repository of silvicultural alternatives to the intensive plantation methods that dominate industrial forestry on the Coastal Plain. The not-so-hidden secret of southern forestry is that naturally regenerated Coastal Plain loblolly-shortleaf pine is one of the Nation’s most pliable forest types, able to be sustainably managed using an entire spectrum of even-aged and uneven-aged silvicultural systems.
Located seven miles west of Nacogdoches, Texas, the 2,560-acre Stephen F. Austin Experimental Forest was established by an act of Congress in 1945. For its first 15 years, the experimental forest was primarily used for research that improved methods for growing loblolly and shortleaf pine. In 1949, 40 acres were set aside as a demonstration forest where landowners could learn how to manage small lots for timber production as part of the Forest Service Farm 40 project.
Rather than hibernating in caves, some bat species in the southeastern U.S. get through the coldest parts of winter by roosting under fallen leaves, twigs, and other dead plant material on the forest floor. Although this leaf litter protects bats from the cold, it could also put them at risk of being injured or killed by prescribed fires.
In March 2016, scientists found bats infected with white-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease that’s killed millions of North American bats across the eastern United States, in Washington state, over 1,000 miles from the nearest confirmed infection site in eastern Oklahoma.
High-quality longleaf pine seeds are essential for producing nursery seedlings that perform well in the field, but producing them is not as easy as it might seem. Longleaf pine seeds are unusually sensitive to damage during collection, processing, treatment and storage.
Timber has been harvested for hundreds of years, but current bioenergy operations use more parts of a tree than ever before; small branches that used to be considered non-merchantable are now often harvested instead of left rotting on the forest floor.
On May 31st, over 50 researchers from the United States, China, Germany, Slovenia, Chile, Germany, Poland, Finland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Canada, Belgium, and the United Kingdom descended upon Little Rock, Arkansas to discuss forestry management techniques from around the world at the 10th International Workshop on Uneven-aged Silviculture.
For 10 straights days from 25 April through May 3, U.S. Forest Service personnel from the Southern Research Station, Region 8, and State and Private Forestry (S&PF) taught a short course on southern pine silviculture as part of the National Advanced Silviculture Program (NASP). The silviculture certification program for the Forest Service, NASP consists of four core training modules led by academic institutions, and a fifth local area module developed specifically to build expertise in regional forest types.
Like most regions of the U.S., the future of the Mid-South forests of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas is one of challenge. A report by the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station outlines those challenges and presents options for managing forests over the next half century.
“Two resources are most important to bats in the eastern U.S.,” says U.S. Forest Service biologist Roger Perry. “Roosts – places they can safely spend daylight hours – and insects for food.” Because roosts also allow bats to sink into torpor, a state of lowered metabolism and energy usage, roosts may be as important for gaining weight as food. When bats enter torpor, they are able to reduce the amount of energy they are using, and store more fat during fall, which is critical to surviving through winter hibernation.