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Arkansas contains six natural divisions:
Within and between these natural divisions exists a large and amazingly diverse hardwood
Almost three quarters of Arkansas' total forest resource is comprised of hardwood
forest types. These forest types include both bottomland and upland hardwood forests.
The bottomland forests are located in the Delta, Arkansas River Valley, and minor stream bottoms within
other natural divisions. The upland hardwood forests are primarily located across the Ozark and Ouachita Divisions, with pure hardwood
and mixed pine/hardwood forests occurring in the Coastal Plain division.
A final, unique upland forest exists in the Crowley's Ridge natural division. Crowley's
Ridge is a small but interesting geographical area located in the Delta but exhibiting
elevations up to 200 feet higher than the Delta division and containing hardwood tree
species not native anywhere else in the state.
Arkansas' hardwood forests have historically been composed of oaks, along with hickories,
maples, ashes and other tree species and have provided a resource that has been important
to humans and wildlife for multiple uses.
Photo by Kyle Cunningham, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
The oak forests are aging across the state. A result of these "aging" forests can
be a decline in the health, vigor, and value of the resource. Additionally, previous
management (or lack of management) and reduced role of fire has resulted in a need
for management operations that will help restore the now shrinking oak component present
in many hardwood stands in both bottomland and upland forests.
Managing hardwood forests with an emphasis on the presence of oak species can be a
challenge. Management operations to maintain healthy hardwood forests with oak as
a component of existing stands include:
Keys to success in managing existing stands:
Photo by Kyle Cunningham, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
When managed properly, hardwood stands can be an outstanding resource to meet multiple
management objectives. However, decision-making can be difficult for hardwood forests.
Pursuing the advice of a professional forester (with hardwood management experience)
can be a very smart choice that will help ensure a forest legacy is maintained for
Fact Sheets for Management of Existing Stands:Evaluating the Management Potential of Upland Hardwood Stands Using Natural Regeneration to Promote Oaks in Upland Hardwoods A Landowner's Guide to Field Grading Hardwood Trees
Thousands of acres are planted each year with hardwood seedlings. These plantings
most often occur on abandoned agricultural fields or "old fields". There are several
federal cost share programs (administered by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency) that promote these plantings on marginally productive agricultural fields. These
There are many considerations when planning to plant seedlings (termed: artificial
Proper planning prior to purchasing and planting hardwood seedlings can make the difference
between successful survival and growth rates and planting failures (which are costly).
The first two years (primarily year 1) of a hardwood planting will dictate whether
it is successful in the years to come. Getting help from a professional forester is
almost always a good idea to ensure success when planting hardwood seedlings.
Photo by Kyle Cunningham, U of A System Division of Agriculture.
USDA NRCS Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) Afforested Hardwood Fields
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides opportunities for cost-share and technical assistance based conservation
easements through their Agricultural Conservation Easement Program Specifically the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) program (formerly the WRP program)
has provided easements on agricultural fields in wetland areas for over 25 years.
There are currently thousands of acres in Arkansas that have been established in hardwoods
over the past 25 years under the WRP/WRE programs. The NRCS provides technical assistance
for hydrological operations and hardwood establishment through the first few years
of the program.
Many of these stands have developed to a point where re-entry is warranted into the
developing stands to assist in meeting the programs overarching goal of wildlife habitat
and restoration of wetland systems. Forestry and wildlife researchers and professionals
have worked on the development of stand management guidelines as the planted stands
age. These operations may include pre-commercial or commercial thinning.
As planted hardwood stands develop, the tree canopies begin to touch and close the
space available for sunlight to penetrate through the canopy. Sunlight levels beneath
these canopies can be reduced to under 10 percent of full sunlight. Adequate sunlight
is essential to establish and grow beneficial plants at ground level for cover and
food for many wetland wildlife species. Removing a targeted portion of the developed
trees allows additional sunlight to once again reach the ground level and promote
herbaceous plants and shrubs.
Deciding when to conduct a thinning can be impacted by a several factors:
The Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station has several research forests located around the state. Research and Extension faculty
work to develop demonstration areas for forest landowner education. There is a diversity
of hardwood project areas, including:
Managing hardwood forests for wildlife
Workshops, field tours, and other trainings are conducted annually at research stations
across the state. Forest landowners are encouraged to attend these very informative,
hands on educational programs (see calendar of events or check with your county Extension
agent). County Offices
University of Arkansas - Division of Agriculture.
University of Arkansas - Division of Agriculture
Competition Control in Hardwood Stands