Structural attributes of two old-growth Cross Timbers stands in western Arkansas
Comprised of largely non-commercial, xeric, oak-dominated forests, the Cross Timbers in Arkansas have been heavily altered over the last two centuries, and thus only scattered parcels of old-growth timber remain. We inventoried and mapped two such stands on Fort Chaffee Military Training Center in Sebastian County, Arkansas. The west-facing Christmas Knob site is located on an isolated hill, while the southerly-facing Big Creek Narrows site is on a long, narrow rocky outcrop called Devil’s Backbone Ridge. These sites occupied rocky, south- to southwest-facing sandstone-dominated slopes, with primarily post oak (Quercus stellata) and blackjack oak (Q. marilandica) overstories. Post oak dominated the largest size classes at both sites. Increment cores indicated that some post oaks exceeded 200 y of age, and tree-ring dating also confirmed an uneven-aged structure to these stands. Both locations had irregular reverse-J shaped diameter distributions, with gaps, deficiencies, and excesses in larger size classes that often typify old-growth stands. On average, the post oaks at the Big Creek Narrows site were taller, larger in girth, and younger than those on the Christmas Knob site, suggestive of a better quality site at Big Creek. The application of neighborhood density functions on stem maps of both sites found random patterns in tree locations. These stands are very similar in their structure to old-growth examples in other parts of the Cross Timbers ecoregion.