Forests in a Looking Glass
from the vegetation study. Although many plants can produce soft mast in the forest, most often they do not. Dogwood and blackgum consistently produce fruit, but other species (such as blackberries, blueberries and raspberries) only will grow in open areas with sunlight. Both mast studies will determine how timber management practices affect fruit production.
One study is not field intensive but takes an enormous amount of laboratory time. The researcher in charge of this study is looking at invertebrate species living in the leaf litter on the forest floor. These species make up a large part of the diversity of the forest.
She has so far identified 700 different species on MOFEP sites, and she estimates that up to 250 million individuals occur per acre. Two species that are new to science already have been collected on this study.
Another scientist is measuring soil temperatures, air temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation and wind speed along a 10-mile transect to determine microclimate variability on the landscape. We hope to see if microclimate changes, whether natural or resulting from management, affect the vegetation types and growth.
Genetic diversity within a species is necessary for its long-term survival, allowing it to adapt to changing conditions. The woody plant genetics study will determine how genetic diversity changes in some species with the type of forest management.
Last but not least, a study is looking for different species of Armellaria and how they and the trees they affect respond to the management treatments. These fungi mostly hasten wood rot but may attack severely stressed living trees.
With all these studies in place, computers are bulging at the seams with information. Data management is critical to MOFEP to allow systematic storage and retrieval of data for use by all the scientists. An overall goal of MOFEP is to cross-reference findings from the many studies to be able to get the big picture, rather than individual frames.
The MOFEP project has many things that set it apart from most studies. We are looking at land management practices over large areas. We are also overlapping many different studies on the same sites to see how the pieces fit together. This huge, cooperative effort involves many scientists and technicians in many agencies, universities and colleges.
It may take 100 years before we see the full effects of management on the MOFEP sites, but we plan on learning and, in turn, teaching many things along the way. The scientists who created MOFEP will not live long enough to see the project's completion. Nevertheless, they know the information collected along the way will be as valuable as the end product. Sustainability of the forest is the goal of all forest managers, and the information generated by MOFEP will help us reach that goal.