The Baskett Wildlife Research and Education Center has a rich history of research related to forest ecology and natural resource management. Examples of current projects include:
At MOFLUX, scientists from MU’s School of Natural Resources, and the Environmental Sciences Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are collaborating on a research project that measures the carbon and water balances of Missouri’s oak-hickory forests on a large scale.
The MOFLUX project is a component of ORNL’s Terrestrial Ecosystem Science-Science Focus Area (TES-SFA) that is funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, and is also part of “AmeriFlux”—a network of hundreds of sites making similar measurements across the Americas.
At MOFLUX, a 106-foot tower is outfitted with sophisticated analytical equipment to measure carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor and meteorological data. These data can be used to estimate the CO2 and water vapor exchange of up to 250 acres of forest, giving an ecosystem-level answer to when forests are sources and sinks of CO2.
The project will undertake comparative studies with other AmeriFlux sites to examine how CO2 uptake (by photosynthesis) and release (by respiration) change along important climate and vegetation gradients. Also supported by the project are on-going, long-term successional studies at BWREC to document historical forest development and forest dynamics at the site.
Forest Dynamics Projects
Several lines of research at BWREC assess forest change through time and the role of human influence on those changes. A network of long-term forest monitoring plots were established across a variety of forest types in 1968 to evaluate forest stand dynamics and succession. These plots have individual trees tagged and are remeasured periodically. To better understand the process of tree regeneration, these plots include an annual measurement of tree seedlings to generate data on seedling establishment, growth and mortality.
A separate project evaluates the legacy effects of agricultural land use on the current forest structure and composition. This study includes 24 permanent sampling plots distributed across sites that were cleared of forest in the 1939 aerial photograph and sites that were forested in 1939. In addition, the study incorporates sampling across two different soil types. Following agricultural abandonment when BWREC came into MU management, forest succession patterns included the establishment of early successional species such as eastern redcedar and black locust. In addition, these forested areas have high abundance of invasive plants such as bush honeysuckle, autumn olive and Asian bittersweet. This study includes camera surveys of wildlife use in each of the forest types, as well as soil sampling to determine if the agricultural land use has long-term effects on soil properties. Results from this study are being used to inform best practices for restoring these conditions to more desirable forests based on the conditions in the forest legacy plots.
One common feature across mature oak forests in the BWREC is a lack of abundant oak regeneration (seedlings or saplings) under the canopy. This can create problems for sustaining oak as a canopy component in the future, especially as forests age and mortality of canopy trees increases. A new study is designed to determine the most important limiting factors for oak seedling success on these sites. As a wildlife refuge, BWREC has an abundant deer population – could they be limiting seedling success due to herbivory? Or are the light levels too low at the forest floor due to the establishment of sugar maple saplings? This study will explore these factors and others!
Conducting Research at Baskett
To conduct research at BWREC, a Baskett Research Study Plan (PDF) must be completed and approved before research begins.