LWDF and a champion shortleaf pine    Don Bragg
   Mar 19, 2006 11:33 PST 


I had planned to submit this trip report later, but in honor of the
upcoming Eastern Old-Growth Forest Conference, I decided to release
these results now.

I have recently completed a resurvey of the Levi Wilcoxon
Demonstration Forest (LWDF) just south of Hamburg in Ashley County,
AR. Some of you may recall that I presented some information on the
LWDF when I first joined, and at that time I promised to do a fuller
assessment using the sine method to meet ENTS standards. A lot of
water passed under the bridge since then, but I had an opportunity
to revisit this stand as a part of work...

The LWDF is located in the Upper West Gulf Coastal Plain of southern
Arkansas not far from the Mississippi Embayment (aka the "Delta").
The LWDF is located on a formation called the "Prairie Terrace", or
sediments deposited by an ancentral version of the major rivers
(including the Mississippi, Missouri, and Arkansas) that flowed in
this region at some point in the distant past. The low, rolling
hills are interspersed with flatter, Holocene period floodplains
of the many small streams that drain the area. A layer of loess
covers much of the area, although not nearly as deep as across the
Mississippi River. Another interesting feature of this landform
are the "pimple" or "prairie" mounds that dot the surface. These
low, circular mounds are though to have a natural (non-human) biotic
origin, but little about them is known.

The upland forests of the region are largely pine or some mix of
pine-oak-gum-hickory, and are relatively diverse. Loblolly pine is
the most dominant species, having been heavily planted and managed
for for decades. Shortleaf pine is common, although not in nearly
the quantities found in historical times. Various oak species are
found throughout the area, especially southern red oak, white oak,
post oak, water oak, and willow oak. Sweetgum and blackgum are
very common, as are numerous other hardwoods like elm, maple, and

The following individuals were measured with our Impulse 200LR. I
measured the sine and tangent heights at exactly the same points,
so this is further evidence of the value of the sine method. The
American Forests Bigness Index (AFBI) was calculated using their
averaged value for crown width (CW):

                  Circ    Sine    Tan     Avg    AF
SPP                ft      HT      HT      CW    BI
Loblolly pine     10.7    138.3   150.8   47.7   279
Loblolly pine     10.5    126.8   134.9   67.1   269
Loblolly pine     11.2    122.2   134.5   53.7   270
Loblolly pine     14.6    116.9   125.6   57.0   306
Loblolly pine     11.0    116.8   119.3   55.1   263
Post oak           8.4     99.7   106.7   42.5   211
Post oak           8.4     91.4   118.1   60.0   207
Shortleaf pine     9.4    136.1   137.6   49.8   261
Shortleaf pine     9.0    131.4   126.8   37.2   249
Shortleaf pine     7.7    129.6   131.3   37.4   232
Shortleaf pine     6.6    124.2   133.0   28.7   210
Shortleaf pine     8.6    121.1   119.7   45.4   236
Shortleaf pine     8.1    112.7   123.7   38.9   219
S. red oak        10.1    102.8   127.3   80.2   244
Sweetgum           7.9    120.7   127.4   50.0   227
Sweetgum           8.4     98.9    93.4   52.2   213
Water oak          7.4    102.3   106.7   36.8   200
White oak          9.6    110.0   118.0   76.7   244
White oak         11.8    109.2   133.1   68.5   268
White oak          7.7    106.5   125.3   54.5   213
White oak          8.4    104.9   129.2   73.8   224
White oak          9.6    100.7   120.6   63.5   231
Winged elm         4.8     90.4    95.8   46.7   160

RuckerIndex(8spp)         112.5

I could have picked up a few other subordinate hardwood species to
calculate at 10 spp Rucker Index, but that didn't seem most
appropriate. This stand was reserved as an example of the virgin
pine forests in the late 1930s, and was probably typical of the
last few parcels of old-growth pine-dominated forests remaining in
the region, but is not likely an example of the most productive
sites of the area. Over the decades, pine regeneration has ceased,
and the stand is slowly converting to mixed hardwoods.

The 14.6' CBH loblolly pine is known as the "Morris Pine", and I have
sent this list pictures of this tree before. The biggest pine I have
seen mentioned in the GLO land survey notes for the Ashley County area
was given as 18.8' CBH, and I think 14' to 16' CBH pines were pretty
common in the area. I strongly suspect that loblolly (and perhaps
even shortleaf) may have exceeded 150' tall in the presettlement
forests, and perhaps loblolly approached 170' in some of the richer
minor bottoms it grows the quickest in, but we have no real way to
show that now, given that virtually all old-growth pines have been
logged from the area. I think that 140' is probably about the upper
end of the pine height potential in the LWDF, given the frequency of
ice storms and damaging winds this stand receives.

Few hardwoods of large size are found in this stand, as it was
primarily pine when it was reserved. There are some impressive
forest-grown white and post oaks, but sweetgum appears to be the only
hardwood challenging the pines for supercanopy positions. The winged
elm was an impressive individual for this species, which is usually
just a small understory tree.

Finally, the Walsh Pine, the 136.1' Arkansas state champion shortleaf
pine, saw its crown reduced somewhat from storms in recent years, but
is still vigorously healthy. I was recently on the American Forests
website, and looked up shortleaf pine. Lo and behold, the two co-
champion shortleaf pines scored 240 and 245 points. When I nominated
the Walsh Pine several years ago, it scored more than that, but I was
told that a different shortleaf pine had been nominated that
outscored the Walsh Pine, and therefore the LWDF didn't have a
national champion. Imagine my surprise when I saw the 2004-2005
register online with these trees!

We carefully remeasured the Walsh Pine using the sine method (it shrunk
in height from 143' to 136.1'), and although a branch broke
that narrowed its crown slightly, the Walsh Pine still scored 261
points! Turns out that there is another shortleaf in the LWDF that
scored 249 points, also outscoring the current co-champs! I have
resubmitted the Walsh Pine as national champion, and it is currently
under consideration.

Unfortunately, the LWDF is about three hours from Little Rock, so it
will be hard to show interested ENTS this stand, unless they are
willing to make a special trip on Sunday.

I hope to see as many of y'all as possible Friday/Saturday!

Don Bragg

Don Bragg, Ph.D.
Research forester