A Hundred-Year Ozarks Forest Study

While spending time outdoors or driving through the forest, did you ever wonder what the species composition of trees, plants and animals is in our local Ozarks forest? Or perhaps you wondered about the overall health, age of trees, what condition our forests are in or how changes in the natural environment affect living organisms from tiny insects to large trees? As natural resource managers, your Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) professionals constantly ask these questions as well as what can be done to make our forests healthier and increase habitat diversity.

Planning for Future Forests

Twenty years ago the MDC and the University of Missouri initiated a comprehensive forest study to measure the changes in plants and animals occurring locally as a result of different management activities. This study is known as the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project (MOFEP) and encompasses 9,381 acres of forest in Shannon, Carter and Reynolds counties. The MOFEP Project uses traditional resource management boundaries called compartments, in conjunction with traditional forest management practices, for the study. Each compartment contains approximately 1,000 acres, so a wide array of associated land types are studied in each compartment. Within compartments different land types are broken into stands that range from 1 to 50 acres. It is at the stand level where the forest is managed and forest health within stands dictate what treatment, if any, is needed. After a careful forest and related habitat inventory, resource managers from all disciplines of the MDC come together to formulate a plan on how best to manage stands within each compartment using the management practice designated for each compartment.

More Than Just the Trees Benefit

Three compartments are designated as even-age units, three compartments are designated as uneven-age units and three compartments for a total of 2,885 acres will be left untouched with management designated as to simply leave the forest and see what nature provides. As with any natural landform, there are areas within all compartments that require other types of treatment or other management consideration, such as glades, inaccessible areas and watershed areas. MOFEP studies are looking at how these different types of forest management affect many of the components that make up the ecology of the forest including birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, ground flora, trees, soils, carbon exchange and others.

Second Round of Treatments in 2011

Spring and summer of 2011 mark the second silviculture treatment cycle on the MOFEP project. Of the total 9,381 acres in MOFEP, 415 acres will be thinned and 488 acres will be regenerated using the even-age silviculture system. One thousand sixty-seven acres will be thinned using uneven-age management. One hundred twenty-four acres will have woodland/glade restoration work done. This amounts to applying silviculture treatments to only 27 percent of the entire MOFEP study area and 38 percent of the actively managed portion of MOFEP. Four thousand one acres within the actively managed compartments do not need treatment and will be reevaluated during the next 15-year management cycle in 2026.

Benefits of Study Are Far-Reaching

It’s quite an honor to know that our part of the Ozarks forest is hosting such a large study that will ultimately serve forest ecosystem managers in Missouri and several Midwest states by providing cutting-edge natural resource management technology. Surprising? Not really. The Current River watershed has always been the heart of Missouri’s forest, and good forest management has rewarded and will continue to reward our citizens with the help of the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project. To learn more about the Missouri Ozarks Forest Ecosystem Project visit the official website at http://mofep.mdc.mo.gov/overview/default_overview.htm.

Key Messages: 
We work with you and for you to sustain healthy forests, fish and wildlife.