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View of treesnear Wabikon Forest.
Cofrin Center for Biodiversity

Wabikon Lake Forest Dynamics Plot

The Wabikon Lake Forest Dynamics Plot is a forest research plot located within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northeastern Wisconsin, approximately 10 km east of Crandon. A contiguous 447 hectare area that includes the plot and nearby lowlands was designated as a Wisconsin State Natural Area in 2007. The site is owned by the U.S. Forest Service (CNNF National Forest). Research at the plot is led by University of Wisconsin Green Bay faculty members Amy Wolf, Robert Howe and Gary Fewless through the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity at UW Green Bay, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.

Wabikon Forest Plot is part of is a global network of forest research plots committed to the study of tropical and temperate forest function and diversity. The multi-institutional network is coordinated by the Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS) at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and comprises more than forty forest research plots across the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe, with a strong focus on tropical regions. CTFS monitors the growth and survival of about 3.5 million trees of approximately 7,500 species.

The Wabikon plot provides an opportunity to conduct long-term, large-scale research in a mesic temperate forest. This research in collaboration with data collected at other Forest Dynamics plots will allow CTFS collaborators to increase our scientific understanding of forest ecosystems; help guide sustainable forest management and natural-resource policy. and monitor the impacts of climate change. Long term research plans at Wabikon include studies of seedling demography, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) browsing, and ecology of understory herbs.

Site Description

The glacially formed topography of the site consists of hummocky outwash features, including a glacial esker. Mesic northern hardwoods occupy most of the plot. Although the Wabikon Lake plot was logged during the early 1900s, the understory is very high quality, and the forest is similar to more than a million hectares of commercially important hardwood forests in the western Great Lakes region.

The plot includes 48,850 live trees and shrubs and is dominated by sugar maple (Acer saccharum), which makes up 31.9% of trees >1 cm dbh. Other important species include basswood (Tilia americana), white ash (Fraxinus americana), and ironwood/eastern hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana). Animal species include black bear (Ursus americana), gray wolf (Canis lupus), and a rich assemblage of neotropical migrant birds.

Research and Education

Although the project is in its very early stages, several research publications and student theses already have been produced from field data acquired at the Wabikon Forest Dynamics Plot. Several additional manuscripts are in progress, including a comprehensive “plot book” describing the history of the site, field methods, tree species accounts, maps, and quantitative data from the first plot census.       

The Wabikon Forest Dynamics plot has provided field research experience for at least 33 UW-Green Bay students and part-time employment for 22 of these.  Science courses at UW-Green Bay have used data from the plot for laboratory exercises and classroom projects. In winter 2009, for example, students from a course in Mammalogy (and others) conducted a survey of mammal tracks at the plot. Applications of results in classroom and individualized instruction will only increase as new and ongoing projects add to the foundation of data that is being established.