Cross Timbers   Robert Leverett
  May 10, 2004 05:52 PDT 


   What follows is a report from the ENTS Guru of Gurus - Dr. Dave

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

The inaugural meeting of the Ancient Cross Timbers Consortium
was held last Friday, April 30, at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa,
Oklahoma. By all accounts it was a great success. The meeting was
covered in an article by Chris Branam on May 1, 2004, in the Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette. I want to thank everyone who took the time to
attend, many of whom traveled a considerable distance. In this email
I attempt to summarize the meeting, and in another email to follow I
present the minutes of our advisory board meeting (which also
identifies the members of the advisory board and our current short
list of potential 'research natural areas').

Ihad the pleasure of introducing the ancient Cross Timbers
and the outstanding speakers. Richard Francaviglia of UT-Arlington
gave a great historical overview of the Cross Timbers. He emphasized
that we have no clear explanation for the origin of the term 'Cross
Timbers,' but they were an important landmark for early travelers on
the often featureless Southern Plains. In fact, 19th century
settlers were apparently more familiar with the term and region than
modern day residents, and therein lies one of our most important
problems as the Ancient Cross Timbers Consortium, the need to
interpret this interesting and little-changed ecosystem which remains
chucky-jam-full of ancient presettlement post oak!

George Diggs of Austin College gave a wonderful presentation
on the botany of the Cross Timbers, and pointed out that when you
include all the woodland, glade, prairie, and escarpment habitats
that make up the full Cross Timbers mosaic, the area does have
surprisingly high biodiversity. In fact, our colleagues Bob O'Kennon
and Caren McLemore at BRIT have identified 1,107 plant species on
just 20,000 acres of the LBJ National Grasslands (which includes lots
of Cross Timbers). And the disjunct populations of
jack-in-the-pulpit in the 'rockhouse' microenvironments of the
Breckenridge conglomerate are separated by over 100 miles from the
counties in east Texas where they are more routinely found.
Krista C. Peppers (Arkansas) did a great job describing how
we attempt to map the remaining tracts of old-growth Cross Timbers.

I am particularly proud of the old-growth mapping efforts of Krista,
Alynne Bayard, Matt Therrell, and Dan Griffin, and we intend to soon
post our most recent map on the Consortium website. But as Krista
and later on Don Bragg made clear, we still have lots of work to do
before we complete even a provisional map of ancient Cross Timbers,
especially in western Oklahoma, western Arkansas, and the eastern
Cross Timbers of Texas.

Stacy Clark reviewed the highlights of her dissertation
research at the Keystone Ancient Forest Preserve. Stacy's Ph.D.
research at OSU followed Sophonia Roe's master's thesis research on
the botany of the preserve, which was also completed at OSU. Not
surprisingly, Stacy's found that climate variability, especially
severe drought, shapes the structure and composition of the ancient
Cross Timbers. The tiny root systems of some post oak seedlings are
over 40 years old, and it appears that many seedlings die back to the
root system each year until climate and other environmental
conditions are adequate to permit seedling survival above ground and
finally growth into the sapling stage. She also found that most post
oak seedlings emerge from stump or root sprouts, and not acorns,
suggesting that the root system of post oak may outlive any
particular stem. This raises interesting philosophical questions
about the ultimate longevity of post oak. Perhaps the root systems
are thousands of years old?? She also found plenty of tree-ring
evidence for fire on the Keystone Ancient Forest Preserve right
through the 20th century.

Don Bragg of the Southern Forest Experiment Station in
Monticello, Arkansas, discussed the apparent easternmost extension of
the Cross Timbers ecoregion into western Arkansas near Ft. Smith.
Don and I have scouted some of the ridgelines just south of the
former 'impact zone' on decommissioned Ft. Chaffee and found some of
the usual ancient Cross Timbers suspects like gnarly old post oak,
bluestem grasses, and sandstone outcrops. Don also described a
number of historical references to the flora of the region. We plan
to locate and promote a tract of authentic old-growth Cross Timbers
on public land to the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission for
recognition as a natural area and for inclusion in our developing
network of research natural areas in the ancient Cross Timbers.

Dan Griffin (Arkansas) described his honors thesis project on
repeat photography in the Oklahoma Cross Timbers, which included an
extremely lucky find, a 1914 photograph of the property that was
dedicated on Saturday as the Keystone Ancient Forest Preserve (now
owned by Sand Springs and managed by the Nature Conservancy).

David Schmidly, President of Oklahoma State University, and
the luncheon speaker for our meeting also discussed the importance of
historical photographs in trying to understand the ecological changes
that have affected the Southern Plains, none greater than the loss of
natural surface water. He also described the Cross Timbers as
perhaps the best habitat for flying squirrels in the world.

President Schmidly praised Dr. Francaviglia's book on the Cross
Timbers (The Cast Iron Forest), and outlined the conservation
challenges we face in the 21st century, including scientific research
capability, natural area acquisition, regional conservation planning,
and conservation education, all principal goals of the Ancient Cross
Timbers Consortium.

Greg Scott of the NRCS spoke on the soils of the Cross
Timbers, based on his extensive research in Osage County with the
Niotaze-Darnell soils which frequently retain old-growth Cross
Timbers, especially on steep terrain. The mosaic of woodland and
prairie, which is so typical of the Cross Timbers landscape, can
often be explained by soil texture gradients, but the plant-fire
relationships of prairie and woodland vegetation are also involved in
the mosaic.

Bruce Burton is the manager of the Okmulgee Wildlife
Management Area in Oklahoma, which contains the largest contiguous
tract of ancient Cross Timbers that is presently known, approximately
5000 acres in the uplands above the Deep Fork of the Canadian River.
Bruce looked back over the history of the Okmulgee WMA from the
perspective of the oldest trees still living in the area. We have
made much about the fact that Washington Irving crossed the Arkansas
River near the Keystone Ancient Forest Preserve back in 1834, but
Bruce found that Irving's exhausted company traveled right through
the Okmulgee WMA on his return.

Jimmy Dickerson (USFS) described the management objectives of
the LBJ National Grasslands in northcentral Texas, an area of 20,252
acres that includes a grassland/woodland mosaic and the 370 acre
'Cross Timbers Research Natural Area.' Abandoned farms and ranches
are common in the area, and much of the topsoil has been lost. The
Soil Conservation Service acquired the property in the 1930's, and
much of the area was re-seeded with native grasses. The Forest
Service was subsequently given administrative responsibility for the
area and has been actively trying to rehabilitate the ecosystem.

Jim Eidson (TNC) described the Nature Conservancy's Cross
Timbers/Southern Tallgrass Ecoregional Plan that covers some 77,000
square miles extending from Kansas into central Texas. TNC is trying
to leverage their traditional, highly successful, and very expensive
conservation model of preserves with private partnerships such as the
Fire Management Cooperative designed to restore natural
grassland/woodland dynamics in the biome. They are also trying to
develop metrics for 'biodiversity health,' one component of which
might include the survival of an intact canopy of ancient trees. TNC
and the LBJ National Grasslands are both helping to support Krista
Peppers dissertation research, which involves a detailed plant
inventory under old-growth woodlands and may help provide a measure
of biodiversity health or ecological integrity.

Jack Bauer (TPWD) described the conservation initiatives of
Texas Parks and Wildlife in the Cross Timbers. Texas Parks has been
interested in an outstanding 5300 acre ranch in the western Cross
Timbers for some 40 years, and I first met Jack at this particular
ranch last year when we were testing Krista's predictive model for
ancient Cross Timbers remnants. I regard the fact that Krista's
model identified a tract which Texas Parks has known about for 40
years as a great triumph, because her model was designed in our lab
with nothing more than ideas about the uneven land use history of
Texas, and information on the topography, soils, and current
distribution of woodland cover. Texas Parks also manages Lake
Mineral Wells State Park which includes the largest and most
outstanding remnant of ancient Cross Timbers known to still survive
on public land in Texas. The escarpments of Breckenridge
conglomerate on the southeast edge of Lake Mineral Wells are very
scenic and include beautiful examples of old growth post oak and
cedar elm.

Matt Therrell (Iowa) described other consortia focused on
natural environments that have been developed among universities,
agencies, and conservation organizations. The University of
California system manages a large group of research reserves in the
diverse habitats of California, but they generally do not own the
land. Instead, management agreements have been arranged between the
landowners and the UC consortium for the controlled use of the
natural areas for bona fide research and education. The California
system could serve as an example for the Ancient Cross Timbers
Consortium, which would cover a geographic area almost as large as
California. Matt also described some of the funding opportunities
that our Consortium might be qualified to pursue.

Sincerely, Dave Stahle
David W. Stahle
Dept. of Geosciences
Ozark Hall 113
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701 USA
479-575-3469 (FAX)

Cross Timbers
  May 11, 2004 07:53 PDT 
Tall-tree folks:

Randy has booted me out of the bleachers. I have only been reading the list
digest for a little over a week and find that your efforts have given me a
different perspective of big trees.

I live and work in the East Cross Timbers, a region between Dallas & Fort
Worth, TX. As a registered consulting arborist, my main activities are to develop
pre-construction tree protection plans and remedial tree care programs, for
those trees that do sustain root injuries.

It is my loss that I was unable to attend the inaugural meeting of the
Ancient Cross Timbers Consortium, but I will look forward to more info from them.
The root age facts of Post Oaks, found by Stacy Clark, was interesting in that I
used to provide transplanting services with tree spades. After a bit of trial
and error and learning that many young Post Oaks were root suckers, we were
able to successfully transplant many Post Oaks in the size range of 4-7"

In a recent lecture, Dr. Stahle stated that most of the old PO's are in the
West Cross Timbers and I find that quite interesting in view of the large-size
trees that we see in the East XTimbers.... much more for me to learn.

Due to unprecedented commercial and residential development, in this region,
we are losing large areas of the Post Oak/Blackjack Oak/Cedar Elm association
and, hopefully, the Consortium will aid in heightening the awareness for the
need for more preservation efforts.

Locally, the PO spp. has a bad reputation for surviving construction
activities. However, by contrast, if the dominant spp. were Red Oak, instead, there
would be very survivors.

Mineral Wells State Park is very worthy of a visit, if you are in the area.

Thanks for ENTS efforts in Zoar gives me a new reason to

G. Sandy Rose
Arlington, TX