Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Consortium To Study, Preserve Ancient Forest

October 27, 2003
University Of Arkansas, Fayetteville
A group of researchers led by a man who helped identify the largest tract of old-growth forest in mid-America has helped establish a consortium to study and preserve the trees and their ecosystems.

A group of researchers led by a man who helped identify the largest tract of old-growth forest in mid-America has helped establish a consortium to study and preserve the trees and their ecosystems.

David Stahle, professor of geosciences, has established the Ancient Cross Timbers Consortium for Research, Education and Conservation, a group of universities, non-profit conservation organizations, zoos and government agencies that have an interest in one of America’s largest and least-studied tracts of forest.

“Natural ecological processes are still ongoing in the Cross Timbers,” Stahle said.

“These forests include trees over 400 years old and have not been logged. Fire still occasionally burns the undergrowth. Tornadoes and ice storms topple trees.”

The region has several large streams running through the ecosystem and several small watersheds completely covered with undisturbed old-growth woodlands, which is extremely rare in the eastern United States. Researchers could study water quality in these relatively undisturbed areas and make comparisons to watersheds in ecosystems modified by humans.

When UA graduate student Krista Clements Peppers began examining the Cross Timbers in Texas, she heard people say that there was no old growth to be found. She has used satellite imagery to predict where old growth may still exist, and field studies have shown that tracts of old-growth forest still dot the landscape of north Texas.

“We have an important part of the historical forest still remaining in the south-central United States,” she said. “It’s a gold mine for people researching just about any kind of ecological question.”

“The Cross Timbers are grossly undervalued in the conservation community,” said Michael Palmer, a botanist at Oklahoma State University. “Many forest ecologists nationwide have never even heard of the Cross Timbers.”

The Cross Timbers cut across eastern Oklahoma from north to south, extending into Kansas and Texas. Scraggly looking post oaks and blackjack oaks populate the hilly landscape, most never reaching heights of more than 40 feet.

“Despite the fact that most of Oklahoma’s population and a significant part of the population of Texas reside in the Cross Timbers, there has been very little research to characterize its structure and functions,” said Oklahoma State University forest ecologist Stephen Hallgren.

Stahle knew nothing about the trees until the early 1980s, when he drove through the area on a road trip and wondered about the age of the gnarled trees he was passing by. So he brought out a small, pencil-thin instrument that can take a sample for dating without damaging the tree and brought a few samples back to his tree ring lab at the University of Arkansas.

He discovered trees that dated back more than 300 years.

Since then, Stahle, Peppers, Matthew Therrell of Iowa State University and Alynne Bayard of the U.S. Forest Service have dated and mapped areas of the Cross Timbers and discovered vast tracts of forest containing trees that date back 400 to 500 years. These represent some of the oldest specimens in the country, and they also hold a highly sensitive record of rainfall in their rings.

Stahle and his colleagues estimate that up to 500 square miles of old growthold-growth forest exist in the Oklahoma Cross Timbers alone. In addition to its value as an old growthold-growth forest, it serves as a model for the natural processes of undisturbed watersheds, another important research tool used to inform water quality issues.

The Cross Timbers have survived, largely unmolested and unexamined, due to their unremarkable appearance: The short, gnarled trees never lent themselves to logging and the steep, rocky slopes they prefer deterred developers who might have cleared the land for grazing or building.

However, in recent years technology has developed that allows chip mill companies to chop up misshapen trees for use in paper pulp. Such activity may threaten the Cross Timbers, which has yet to gain the notoriety it deserves.

The consortium can counter such potential destruction by working with conservation organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and with private individuals to educate them on the valuable resource these trees represent when preserved. Indeed, the consortium has been offered 1,400 acres, most of it covered in old-growth forest, by a private donor in Oklahoma.

Other tracts of land slated for consortium use include the Cross Timbers State Park in Kansas, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands in Texas, the Keystone Ancient Forest Preserve outside of Tulsa, Okla., and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve northwest of Tulsa, owned by the Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy is currently developing an ecological plan for the Cross Timbers and southern tallgrass prairie, a plan that will be informed by research done by members of the consortium.

The consortium formalizes research relationships between universities, non-profit conservation groups and government agencies that have worked together for years. As an entity with a non-profit status, the consortium will be able to hold conservation easements, own property and receive public and private financial support.

Stahle hopes that the group will be able to create “research natural areas” that will remain preserved so researchers in different fields can take advantage of this rare opportunity to study a mostly intact and ancient ecosystem.

The consortium is supported by the Oklahoma Academy of Science, the Oklahoma Biological Survey, the Nature Conservancy, the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, the Oklahoma City Zoological and Botanical Gardens, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Tulsa Zoo, Austin College, the University of Central Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma, University of Tulsa, Oklahoma State University, University of Arkansas, the Texas Forest Service, the LBJ National Grasslands, and other agencies and individuals.

Please see http://www.uark.edu/misc/xtimber/ to learn more.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

University Of Arkansas, Fayetteville. "Consortium To Study, Preserve Ancient Forest." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 October 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031027062447.htm>.
University Of Arkansas, Fayetteville. (2003, October 27). Consortium To Study, Preserve Ancient Forest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031027062447.htm
University Of Arkansas, Fayetteville. "Consortium To Study, Preserve Ancient Forest." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031027062447.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This

More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins