This page gives an overview of the problem and the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE) goals and objectives. For information about study sites, harvesting treatments, sampling design, and more, see our Study Design page and US Forest Service General Technical Report NRS-P-108, The Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment: A Framework For Studying Responses to Forest Management.
Forest management in the eastern United States is faced with many modern challenges. Professional foresters have an innovative set of management options for the maintenance of healthy forest ecosystems. But some options raise public objections when applied to public lands (e.g., types of timber harvest, prescribed fire) and the effects of some management options on forests and their native inhabitants are poorly understood. Moreover, forest lands in the eastern and Midwestern United States primarily are in small privately-owned parcels that change ownership relatively frequently. These lands often are often managed for short-term financial gains rather than long-term sustainability.
As populations of some forest organisms decline, restrictions on landowners may increase because species become classified as endangered or threatened (e.g., the Indiana bat), while increasing populations of other species (white-tailed deer, invasive plants) create economical and ecological challenges. These problems are compounded by the lack of scientifically rigorous research on the overall impacts of forest management options on the effected ecosystems and their components. Without this research, land managers often are unable to inform a skeptical public regarding the importance of proposed management strategies. To address this set of issues, the HEE, a long-term, large-scale experimental study of forest
management and its impacts, was initiated in 2006
(also see Sustainable Hardwood Ecosystem Area of Excellence).
Research Goals and Objectives
The primary research goal and objectives of the HEE are as follows:
What are the ecological and social impacts of long-term forest management on public and private lands in Indiana and the Central Hardwoods Region?
The specific goals of this research are diverse, because the information will be of use to a broad array of potential users. Our research objectives include efforts to:
- Develop a proven system of forest management prescriptions to maintain desired populations of native plant and animal species and important communities such as those dominated by oak species;
- Understand the response of targeted native wildlife and plant species to forest management, in order to identify the positive effects and mitigate the potential negative effects on species of conservation concern;
- Assess public attitudes towards forest management to develop new approaches for education of the general public and private landowners; and to engage various interest groups in a discussion of proper land management;
- Identify direct and indirect benefits of specific forest management practices to local and regional communities, and understand the impact of forest management practices in community development.
The HEE is in its initial stages and is planned as a 100-year project. Currently, pre-harvest data collection has been completed and the project is in its second year of post-harvest data collection. We will be able to quantify the responses of plants and animals to timber harvesting. However, ultimately that information will result in management prescriptions allowing sustainability of all forest resources and improved quality of life for Indiana residents.
The HEE effort has contributed to the education of 15 M.S. and Ph.D. level scientists to date. It has employed over 50 undergraduate students to conduct summer field work. There have been 3 scientific journal articles published using data collected from HEE sites, and over 20 local and national, outreach and extension events, presentations, and publications associated with the project. HEE has been highlighted in over 35 media outlets including the Chicago Tribune, WTHR Channel 13 Indianapolis, The Herald Times (Bloomington), and WIBC 93.1FM/1340 AM Indianapolis.
Indiana Division of Forestry
The Nature Conservancy
Wildlife Diversity Section, Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife
National Geographic Society