Update on Sewanee Forest History Project

The Sewanee Forest History Project, started by LAL researchers in 2008, entered a new phase this summer. Senior Ecology and Biodiversity major Sean McKenzie, with an Environmental Studies research grant from the university, has begun basic data analysis of harvest and inventory data for the last 70 years of forestry activity on the Domain. The goal of the research is to relate trends in structure and composition of the current university forest to its complicated and diverse management history, as well as to track change in forest structure and composition over time. Using historical harvest contracts, receipts, aerial imagery, and harvest marking tallies it is possible to determine how much of certain species were removed from various areas of the domain in each year. Lumber inventories conducted every ten years show the changes manifesting themselves in the forest as these harvest were taking place. Using both of these, Sean hopes to tease out patterns of forest response to human disturbance over a 70 year timescale.
This research will be ultimately useful to students and faculty who want to know the historical conditions influencing the forest where they are conducting studies. The research can also be used to pinpoint areas of unique forest composition, low historical disturbance, and/or high scientific research value to help guide future management of the university forest.