One of the things that makes the Duke Forest so special is that researchers have been studying it for decades. The incredible forethought of Dr. Clarence Korstian, the first director, to establish and study 87 permanent sample plots (PSPs) cannot be overstated.
The life cycle of forests is slow. Studying them in a way that yields useful information often takes decades and usually exceeds any one person’s career or lifetime. The birthing of a research forest requires an uncommon skill in long-term thinking and faith that the future generation will realize the import.
Korstian’s PSPs range in size from one-tenth to one acre and occur across a variety of forest habitats. Early researchers focused on how forests reclaim abandoned and degraded agriculture areas, creating a theory known as old-field succession. In our modern era, researchers revisit the same plots to ascertain how climate change is affecting the course of traditional successional patterns (read the cover story in the 2018 LOG).
The PSPs continue to offer unparalleled opportunity to understand our ever-changing world and the critical natural resources all life relies on. We hope when you look out into the Duke Forest that you see more than just the roads and trails. Perhaps you can see a rich history of long-term planning and a future full of insights too.