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Washed away road may hinder long-term research at experimental forest

Published: May. 19, 2020 at 4:33 PM AKDT
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A forest 20 miles southwest of Fairbanks allows researchers from all over the world to study the forests of Interior Alaska. For three decades, long-term data has been collected at the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest.

Glenn Juday, professor emeritus of forest ecology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has been taking measurements of trees in the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest for 34 years. Juday says recent weather events have washed out the road that travels into the forest.

"It just carved these deep channels right through the road bed, and right now we're not able to take regular vehicles down this road which is a big problem for the researchers that need to use this, and other people who want to access this area," said Juday.

Juday says they can walk in and take a four-wheeler, but hauling loads and groups of people is not possible.

Juday says from wildlife cycles to forest reproduction, long-term research can track changes that can be missed if researchers only look occasionally.

"We have two hectares here -- or about five acres -- where we've mapped and measured every single tree. We follow what happens to each tree through the years, and a lot has been happening," said Juday.

Since trees live for two or three hundred years, Juday says researchers can make inferences about what might happen to the trees later in their lives. "But we have to check at some point, and this is a place where we do those checks, and follow things all the way through," said Juday.

Juday says the state is looking at their options to fix the road, and until then researchers will continue to conduct measurements as they can, adding to the history of data on the forest.

"The idea is that if have a deep deep history of the research across a broad range of topics. [Then] whatever people need to know in the future, you'll be able to help them better understand by having that deep history to bring to their new study," said Juday.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.

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