The Southern Research Station

Who We Are

The Southern Research Station (SRS) is part of the network of forest and range research facilities that comprise the Research and Development program of the U.S. Forest Service. Stationed mainly in the 13 southern states, our diverse and highly trained employees are committed to developing the science-based knowledge and technology needed to help inform decisions about natural resource management, use, and sustainability. To accomplish this charge, SRS’s internal capacity for scientific research is enriched and extended through 20 experimental forests and networks of partnerships with other researchers, practitioners, and volunteers from a variety of groups and organizations.

Formed by the merger of the Southeastern and Southern Forest Experiment Stations, SRS celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015. Today, existing long-term studies combined with 21st Century innovations provide the foundation of a responsive, forest-based research program that continues to expand into new fields and address emerging challenges, including how forces such as climate and land use change, population growth, invasive plants and pathogens, and fire affect the provision of timber, wildlife, clean air and water, recreation, and many other ecosystem services.

Who We Serve

Knowledge generated by SRS applies to millions of people across the southern United States, and serves urban, suburban, and rural communities across the country and even around the world. Designed for a broad range of audiences, the research program of SRS focuses on both expanding basic scientific knowledge and translating this science into practical applications. This dual mission provides a credible foundation for forest policy and management and provides science-based information about the forest ecosystems of the South.

Whether it’s related to projected climate change, forest economics, ecosystem restoration, endangered species, silviculture practices, invasive plants, forest products, the dynamics of soil fungi, or the relationships between society and natural resources, the science we produce helps people make informed decisions, craft effective policies, and manage land sustainably.

SRS is focused on delivering the research and products that address the diverse needs of our stakeholders and partners. Communication with and feedback from federal, state, tribal, and local agency forest managers and policy makers, nongovernmental organizations, family forest landowners, private industry and investment companies, university academics, outdoor enthusiasts, small business owners, teachers and students, and many others shapes the direction of SRS research programs.

The Station’s resilient past provides a springboard for future success.

Building on the Past

Today, the South is considered the wood basket of the world. No other nation produces as much industrial roundwood as the 13 southern states, which contain almost a third of all forested lands and net annual timber volume growth in the U.S. This was certainly not the case a century ago when exploitive lumbering, poor agricultural practices, resource extraction and wildfires devastated the forests of the southeastern United States. The degrading, eroding, and increasingly unproductive landscapes contributed to impoverished and declining communities. Fortunately, pioneering visionaries in government, industry, and the general public recognized the potential of southern lands to sustainably grow forests for timber, clean water, recreation, and economic development. This recognition spurred numerous rehabilitation and restoration programs designed to return this diminished region to environmental and economic vibrancy.

Yet little was known about the best way to proceed with this ambitious forest restoration goal—nationally, a serious lack of forest science capacity existed in the early 1900’s. Forest Service research and development, itself only a few years old, helped fill this gap with the establishment of the Appalachian (later, Southeastern) and Southern Forest Experiment Stations in 1921. The efforts of our researchers, in partnership with universities and forestry professionals developed the technology and strategies for restoring the forests of the South. Research resulted in advances in many areas of forestry: the control and use of fire, tree planting, production, harvesting, and utilization; water quality protection; wildlife habitat management; and regulation of insects and diseases.

These advances led to emergence of the South’s vital timber sector. In particular, the long-termresearch and demonstration projects on our experimental forests, many of which continue into the present, formed the basis for new questions and provided a means to respond to challenges as they appeared. In addition, new research directions also arose, as the public identified concerns regarding the sustainability of a broader suite of ecosystem services. Understanding where we are is the key to moving forward.

Looking Toward the Future

SRS’s resilient past provides a springboard for future success. The rapidly changing world we live in requires us to examine and, where necessary, modify our research framework and priorities. This Strategic Framework is intended to focus our research to address both current and future needs. Incorporating values and goals from the Forest Service Strategic Plan: FY2015-2020, our strategic framework is designed to guide SRS as an innovative, flexible, and nimble organization capable of responding to emerging issues and matching the pace of change at multiple geographical scales. Our goal is to prepare landowners, managers, and policymakers for change to ensure that Southern forest ecosystems remain sustainable for future generations.

Comment on the Strategic Framework