Blog 2.0

The GCPO LCC science staff have been working toward a comprehensive State of the GCPO report, which uses the most current and comprehensive data available to assess conditions in each of the LCC’s 9 priority ecosystems.  As part of this process an Ecological Assessment report has been developed for each system that uses GCPO-wide geospatial data products to assess habitat endpoints identified in the LCC’s Draft Integrated Science Agenda.  Each of these individual reports are being compiled into the larger State of the GCPO to be released Fall 2017.  We are pleased to announce that the first draft of the assessment of upland hardwoods systems is now available for review. 

The LCC’s Integrated Science Agenda defines a desired state for upland hardwood systems to consist of large hardwood forest and woodland patches, found in heavily forested landscapes, and in an appropriate distribution of successional stages.  Desired upland hardwood woodlands are characterized by moderate levels of canopy cover and tree density, such that herbaceous ground cover is stimulated.  Desired upland hardwood forests are characterized by nearly closed-canopy conditions, with shade-tolerant subcanopy layers.  Through the ecological assessment of upland hardwoods we used comprehensive remote-sensing and imputed plot-level data and a dichotomous decision-based approach to assess specifically targeted landscape endpoints related to forest configuration, canopy cover, basal area, tree diameter and density, midstory density, density of snags and dead/downed wood, forest succession and fire disturbance data.  We used geospatial data to derive a Condition Index Value for each 250 m pixel across the GCPO landscape, based on the number of configuration and condition endpoints that were met. 

We found about 2.6 million acres of upland hardwood woodlands, and 2 million acres of upland hardwood forests in the Ozark Highlands were found in large forest patches in heavily forested landscapes and met at least one forest condition endpoint, however there were limited areas on the landscape where all or nearly all forest conditions were met.  Woodlands approaching desired conditions were found in distinct areas throughout the Ozarks and Ouachita’s in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, western Tennessee, and other areas.  Closed-canopy forests nearing desired conditions were also found in distinct patches in the eastern Ozarks (St. Francois Mountains) in Missouri, as well as in the Boston Mountains and Ouachita’s in Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.  However there is also prevalence of what appear to be good condition upland hardwood forest patches along the Mississippi Valley Loess Hills.   

The draft comprehensive Ecological Assessment of Upland Hardwood systems report can be found here GCPO_UplandHardwoodsAssessment_Draft1_20June2017.pdf and is open for review through the end of July.  Please contact Toby Gray (toby@gri.msstate.edu) for more information on this report and the forthcoming State of the GCPO.

[Figure (right) - Condition index values based on decision-criteria for upland hardwood woodlands (above) and forest (below) ranging from a value of 1 indicating potential hardwoods to values of 29-36 indicating existing hardwoods meet most of the measurable endpoints and are approaching the desired ecological state.]

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