Information Needed for for Sustainable Management of Hardwood Forests: More than 50 years of Research on the Fernow Experimental Forest.
Mary B. Adams and James Kochenderfer. USDA Forest Service, Timber and Watershed Laboratory, PO Box 404, Parsons, WV 26287
Long-term monitoring of forested watersheds on the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia, USA has been conducted to determine the effects of both human-induced and natural disturbances on soil erosion, sediment production, nutrient cycling, and stream chemistry, and to provide important information to scientists, policymakers and land managers. Long-term monitoring began in 1951 when 5 forested watersheds were gaged; additional watersheds and analyses have been added over the years. In this paper, we describe the information gleaned from long-term watershed research, and its use and importance for forest management and forest soils research. We compare mean annual stream water concentrations of pH, nitrate (NO3), sulfate (SO4), and calcium (Ca) from 6 gauged Fernow watersheds with different disturbance regimes. Most disturbances are not sufficiently large in area or extent to have a detectable effect on soil erosion or stream chemistry (diameter-limit or selection harvesting, clearcutting, windstorms). However, fertilization, acidic deposition at ambient levels, maintaining watersheds devoid of vegetation, and conversion to conifers significantly affected soil processes and stream water chemistry. Implications for sustainable management of hardwood forests are discussed.