By Karl Leif Bates
The map that Kelly Oten showed at the Duke Forest annual gathering Thursday night could have been a metaphor for the 7,000-acre research and teaching forest itself .
Her map showed the entire state with Duke Forest in the middle, and advancing legions of forest-killing pests approaching from all sides. In this case, Oten, a forest health monitoring coordinator for the North Carolina Forest Service, was talking about bugs that kill native trees in various horrible ways.
But it might just as well have been a map of encroaching development, rapacious deer, unleashed, freely pooping dogs or any of the dozens of other things that threaten to change the face of this forested oasis on a daily basis.
In a two-hour meeting with snacks and wine, forest director Sara Childs, her staff and Oten brought a room full of forest-lovers up to date on the current health of Duke’s forested reserve and the status of all kinds of invasive species. Things are going well, said Childs, who took over this year after the retirement of Judd Edeburn, but the challenges never go away.
Childs said the forest hosted 84 research projects from 23 institutions in the last year. More than 500 students attended class activities — probably a dramatic undercount — and 827 person-hours went into the ambitious overhaul of the heavily used trails and bridges in the Korstian Division.
The biggest blow of the year was the back-to-back ice storms in February and March that disturbed 187 acres in all, 22 of which simply had to be salvage-cut because they were beyond repair, Childs said.
Deer management seems to be helping, Childs said. Ideally, they’d like to see 15-20 of the giant herbivores per square mile, but the count was more like 80 per mile when they started fall culling operations five years ago. The cull is on right now, by the way, closing the Durham, Korstian and Blackwood Divisions Monday through Friday. That’s in effect until Dec. 19, so stay safely away.
At the end of the evening, Childs and the Duke Forest staff showed Edeburn a handsome new brass plaque that will be installed at the entrance to the former Eno division to rename that section of the forest in his honor.
And while we’re learning about and admiring the Duke Forest, check out these ten fun facts. https://dukeforest.spotlight.duke.edu/