Fernow Experimental Forest

Additional Information

About the Fernow Experimental Forest

[photo:] Forest Service field technicians discuss the day’s work in 1950.The Fernow Experimental Forest, a 4,600-acre outdoor laboratory and classroom, was established in 1934.  It was named for Bernhard Fernow, a pioneer in American forestry research. Early research addressed high-elevation red spruce and the effects of fire on hardwood forests. Research on the Fernow was terminated during World War II.  A new research program was reinitiated in 1948 to study the silviculture (i.e., timber management techniques and principles) of mixed hardwood forests and watersheds of the central Appalachians.

The Fernow, located in the Monongahela National Forest near Parsons, West Virginia, lies within the Allegheny Mountain section of the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau. Elevations range from 1,750 to 3,650 feet.  Hillslopes generally are steep and soils are shallow. The Fernow is a second-growth forest that developed after exploitive logging in the early 1900s.  The forest is classified as mixed mesophytic, having characteristics of both mixed-oak and northern hardwood forest types.

[photo:] Tree canopy characteristics were measured during a 1969 study on forest evaporation.Research Past and Present
Scientific studies on the Fernow have followed two lines of research, with considerable integration between them. Silvicultural research is focused primarily on mixed hardwood stands and addresses questions relating to regenerating, growing, tending, and harvesting trees and stands. Watershed research addresses some basic questions about forest hydrology and water use by forests, as well as important issues related to roads, best management practices, and forest management effects on water and soil resources. Since 1994 research on the Fernow has been more multidisciplinary and the focus has broadened to include aquatic ecology and wildlife ecology topics. Current research topics include silviculture, hydrology, soil productivity, species restoration using fire, acid deposition effects on forest ecosystems, nutrient cycling, carbon allocation, and threatened and endangered species.