Tionesta Research Natural Area

[photo:]Tionesta RNA - Stand established in 1808. Photo by Coeli Hoover, USDA Forest Service.

Warren and McKean
The Tionesta RNA and the adjacent Tionesta Scenic Area constitute one of the few remaining examples of the virgin hemlock-beech climax forest of the Allegheny Plateau. The site contains many species that are uncommon at this latitude. There is no recorded history of logging or fire in the RNA, but oil wells and pipelines were installed throughout the region, a few of which are still active. Severe windstorms damaged the southern edge of the RNA in 1808. Severe ice storms caused widespread damage in 1936 and 1950. In 1985 tornadoes blew down 954 acres of the Scenic Area. Two rare species in Pennsylvania are found within this RNA: Swainson’s thrush and yellow-bellied flycatcher.

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
A station at Bradford, PA is located 24 miles (38 km) northeast of the RNA.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Average annual precipitation is 42 inches (107 cm), 16 inches (41 cm) of which falls between June and October.
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
Average annual temperature is 46°F, with average summer temperature of 66°F.
Elevation ranges from 1550 feet (506m) to 1980 feet (647 m).
Geology and Soils:
The site consists of steep-sided, narrow, lower stream valleys cut into a plateau. Soils are derived from the Pottsville sandstone and conglomerate that cap the plateau and form shales and sandstones on the slopes. Principal soil series are Hazelton sandy loam, Cookport sandy loam and Cavode silt loam. G-17, shale and sandstone.
Aquatic Features:
West Fork Run and East Fork Run traverse the RNA, running generally from northeast to southwest. Both are permanent streams at elevations below about 1700 feet (West Fork) and 1800 feet (East Fork). Tributaries of the South Branch of Tionesta Creek, a branch of the Allegheny River, drain the tract.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Northern Unglaciated Allegheny Plateau (212 G)
Allegheny High Plateau (212Ga)
Plant Communities:
SAF Cover Types (list acres) Kuchler Types (list acres):
23 Eastern hemlock (1644)  
25 Sugar maple-beech-yellow birch (19)  
28 Black cherry- sugar maple (50)  
60 Beech-sugar maple (400)  

Complete Plant List

Common Shrub Species
Hobblebush (Virburnum alnifolium), maple-leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium).
Common Herbaceous Species:
Spinulose wood-fern, Shining club-moss.
Common Mammal Species
Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus), Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum), Black bear (Ursus americanus), white tailed deer, bobcat, hoary bat.
Common Bird Species
Hawks, owls, herons, kingfishers, woodpeckers, warblers, wild turkey, pileated woodpecker, blackburnian warbler, barred owl, red-shouldered hawk, swainson’s thrush, brown creepers, red-breasted nuthatch, white-breasted nuthatch.

Related link: Tionesta Scenic Area Trailhead

Related Reports and Publications

1940. Establishment Record for the Tionesta Research Natural Area within the Allegheny National Forest, McKean County, Pennsylvania. 61 pp.

Aguilar, R. 1981. Soil-landscape relationships of the Tionesta Research Natural Area, Pennsylvania. Ph.D. Diss. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. 178p.

Aguilar, R. and R.W. Arnold. 1985. Soil-landscape relationships of a climax forest in the Allegheny High Plateau, Pennsylvania. Soil Science Society of America Journal 49:695-701.

Bjorkbom, J.C. and R.G. Larson. 1977. The Tionesta Scenic and Research Natural Areas. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report NE-31.

Bolgiano, C. 1989. A case for eastern old-growth. American Forests 95:26-31, 48.

Braun, E.L. 1950. Deciduous forest of eastern North America. The Blakiston Company, Philadelphia. 596p.

Cope, T.M. and A.S. Hawkins. 1934. A preliminary survey of the flora and fauna of the East Tionesta virgin forest, Pennsylvania. Pa. Forest Leaves 24: 23-27.

Cope, T.M. 1936. Observations on the vertebrate ecology of some Pennsylvania virgin forests. Thesis for Ph.D. at Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY.

Davis, M. 1990. Old-growth in the East: a preliminary overview. Earth First!, Canton, N.Y.

Flynn, F. 1991. A forest for the trees. Mid-Atlantic Country (Oct.):40-47,89.

Forbes, R.D. 1934. The thousanth acre. Amer. Forests 40:51-54, illus.

Fox, J.F. 1977. Alternation and coexistence of tree species. Amer. Naturalist, 111:69-89.

Graybill, D.L. 1970. Forest resources and ingestion rates of Tamias striatus populations. Ph.D. Thesis, Univ. of Pittsburgh.

Graybill, D.L., D.P. Snyder, C.A. Tyron, and R.T. Hartman. 1975. Seasonal and annual variations in the quantities of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium calcium and manganese reaching the forest floor as mast in Pennsylvania and Vermont forests. In: Mineral Cycling in Southeastern Ecosystems, R.G. Howe, J.B. Gentry, and M.H. Smith (eds). ERDA Symposium Series. (CONF-740513). pp. 564-579.

Grisez, T.J. and J.J. Mendel. 1972. The rate of value increase for black cherry, red maple, and white ash. U.S.D.A. Forest Serv., Res. Pap. NE-231.

Held, M.E. and J.E. Winstead. 1975. Basal area and climax status in mesic forest systems. Annals of Botany 39:1149-1148.

Hirst, J.M. 1941. A limnological study of the streams in the East Tionesta Tract, Allegheny National Forest, McKean and Warren Counties, Pennsylvania. Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy, 32 pp. Univ. of Pittsburgh.

Hough, A.F. 1933. Virgin forest in Pennsylvania yields research results. Forest Worker 9(2):11.

Hough, A.F. 1934. Natural enemies of the forest. Forest Leaves 24(1):3-6.

Hough, A.F. 1936. The dying of hemlock and other species of the Allegheny National Forest. USDA Forest Service, Allegheny Forest Experiment Station Technical Note No. 9.

Hough, A.F. 1936. A climax forest community on East Tionesta Creek in north-western Pennsylvania. Ecology 17:9-28.

Hough, A.F. 1936. Height growth of hemlock and hardwood seedlings in a virgin stand on East Tionesta Creek. U.S. Forest Ser. Allegheny National Forest Expt. Sta. Tech. Note 12, 2pp.

Hough, A.F. 1940. Tionesta Forest formally set aside. Am. Forests 46:565.

Hough, A.F. 1941. Natural area established in northwestern Pennsylvania virgin forest. Ecology 22:85-86.

Hough, A.F. 1941. Tionesta area set aside. Nature Mag. 34(3):140.

Hough, A.F. 1942. The Tionesta Natural and Scenic Area. Chronica Botanica. 7:272-273.

Hough, A.F. 1942. Soils in a virgin hemlock-beech forest on the northern Allegheny Plateau. Soil Science 54:335-341.

Hough, A.F. 1943. Soil factors and stand history in a virgin forest valley of the northern Allegheny Plateau. Soil Science 56: 19-28.

Hough, A.F. 1944. Persistence of eastern hemlock and American beech in a virgin forest on the Allegheny Plateau. Unpublished manuscript on file at Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, Forestry Sciences Laboratory, P.O. Box 928, Warren, PA 16365.

Hough, A.F. 1964. 20-year vegetation changes on the Tionesta Area. Pa. Forest. 54(4):81, 87.

Hough, A.F. l965. A twenty-year record of understory vegetational change in a virgin Pennsylvania forest. Ecology 46:370-373.

Hough A.F. and R.D. Forbes. 1943. The ecology and silvics of forests in the high plateaus of Pennsylvania. Ecological Monographs 13:299-320.

Long, Zachary T.; Walter P. Carson; Chris J. Peterson. 1998. Can disturbance create refugia from herbivores: an example with hemlock regeneration on treefall mounds. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 125(2):165-168.

Lull, Howard W. 1959. Humus depth in the Northeast. J. Forestry 57:905-909.

Mendel, J.J., T.J. Grisez, and G.R. Trimble, Jr. 1973. The rate of value increase for sugar maple. U.S.D.A. For. Serv., Res. Pap. NE-250.

Meyer, H.A. and D.D. Stevenson. 1943. The structure and growth of virgin beech-birch-maple-hemlock forest in northern Pennsylvania. Journal of Agricultural Research 67:465-484.

Mohlenbrock, R.H. 1986. Tionesta Forest, Pennsylvania Natural History 95:74-76.

Pennsylvania Forestry Association. 1934. Tionesta Tract saved. Forest Leaves 24(2,3,4):19-22.

Peterson, Chris J.; Walter P. Carson; Brian C. McCarthy; S.T.A. Pickett. 1990. Microsite variation and soil dynamics within newly created treefall pits and mounds. OIKOS. (58)39-46 [Tionesta]

Peterson, C.J. and S.T.A. Pickett. 1990. Microsite and elevational influences on early forest regeneration after catastrophic windthrow. J. of Veg. Science 1:657-662.

Peterson, C.J. and S.T.A. Pickett. 1991. Treefall and resprouting following catastrophic windthrow in an old-growth hemlock-hardwoods forest. For. Ecol. and Management 42:205-217.

Peterson, C.J. 1992. The role of history and patch dynamics in the revegetation of a catastrophic windthrow in an old-growth beech-hemlock forest. Ph.D. Diss., Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N. J. 146 p.

Peterson, C.J. and J.E. Campbell. 1993. Microsite differences and temporal change in plant communities of treefall pits and mounds in an old-growth forest. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 120(4):451-460.

Peterson, C.J., and S.T.A. Pickett. 1995. Forest reorganization--a case study in an old-growth forest catastrophe blowdown. Ecology 76(3):763-774.

Peterson, Chris J.; Walter P. Carson. 1996. Generalizing forest regeneration models: the dependence of proppagule availability on disturbance history and stand size. Can. J. For. Res. 26:45-52

Peterson, C.J. 2000. Damage and recovery of tree species after two different tornadoes in the same old growth forest: a comparison of infrequent wind disturbances. For. ecol. manage. 135: 237-252.

Peterson, Chris J.; Steward T. A. Pickett. 2000. [In press] Patch type influences on regeneration in a western Pennsylvania (USA) catastrophic windthrow.

Peterson, C.J.; S.T.A. Pickett. [In revision] Microsite abundance, size, and temporal change during revegetation following a temperate forest catastrophic windthrow. Journal of Vegetation Science.

Ruffner, C.M. 1999. In: Anthropogenic and physiographic influences on the composition and structure of pre-European settlement forests of Pennsylvania. Penn State University, University Park, PA. Ph dissertation, Chapter 3.

Runkle, J.R. 1979. Gap phase dynamics in climax mesic forest. Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Runkle, J.R. 1982. Patterns of disturbance in some old-growth mesic forests of eastern North America. Ecology 63:1533-1546.

Runkle, J.R. 1985. Disturbance regimes in temperate forest. Pp. 17-33 (Chapter 2) in S.T.A. Pickett and P.S. White, eds., The ecology of natural disturbance and patch dynamics, Academic Press Inc., Orlando, Fla.

Shirley, H.L. 1941. A primeval laboratory in Penn's woods. The Scientific Monthly: 290-293, illus.

Simmons, F.C. 1972. Wilderness East? - No. American Forests 78:3, 44-45.

Smith, T.L. 1989. An overview of old-growth forests in Pennsylvania. Natural Areas Journal 9:40-44.

U.S.D.A., Forest Service. 1943. Tionesta Natural and Scenic Area, Allegheny National Forest. U.S.D.A., Forest Ser., 10 pp.

U.S.D.A., Forest Service, 1956. The Tionesta Natural and Scenic Areas in the Allegheny National Forest. U.S.D.A. Forest Serv., 22 pp.

Ward, R.T. 1964. Some aspects of the regeneration habits of American beech. Ecology 42:282-832.

Whitney, G.G. 1990. The history and status of the hemlock-hardwood forests of the Allegheny Plateau. Journal of Ecology 78: 443-458.

Zimmerman, G.L. Jr. 1984. Analysis of arboreal vegetation and a test of species alternation between hemlock and beech at the Tionesta Research Natural Area in northwestern Pennsylvania. Ph.D. Diss., Rutger University, New Brunswick, NJ. 46pp

Last Modified: August 19, 2021