A Century of Regrowth: The Little Arnot Photo Series

Photo of the Little Arnot from 1928. Large trees have been cut down.Photo of the Little Arnot from 1937. Small, spindly trees are startng to regrow.Photo of the little Arnot forest from 1947. Several trees have grown biggerPhoto of the Little Arnot from 1958. A man stands looking at the slightly larger trees.Photo of the Little Arnot from 1968. The trees have grown and there are smaller crowded trees behind.Photo of the Little Arnot from 1978. Two trees have grown much larger, and several have fallen.Photo of Little Arnot from 1988. The two trees have grown again.Photo of the Little Arnot from 1998.  The image has not changed much from 1988, with more branches down.Photo of Little Arnot from 2008. The image has not changed much but the two trees are larger, and the grass and bushes are biggerPhoto of Little Arnot from 2018. The image has not changed much but the grass and bushes and bigger

Slideshow displays pictures of the Little Arnot, starting in 1928 and ending in 2018. Pictures were taken every 10 years.

Forests are constantly growing and changing. They grow from young forest to mature forest and sometimes to old-growth, and the cycle repeats. The US Forest Service has studied forest growth and change here on the Allegheny Plateau since 1923 when both the Allegheny National Forest and the Northeastern Research Station were established. 

Each stage of a forest offers different benefits for people, wildlife, and plants – clean water, wood fiber, habitat for wildlife, and outdoor recreation. Like a community, a forest is healthiest and offers the most benefits if it contains a variety of ages and kinds of trees, plants, and animals. When forest management and science work together, we can sustain natural resources to meet our needs today and the needs of our grandchildren’s children, too.


Photo of the Little Arnot from 1928

Much of the Allegheny National Forest looked like this when the Forest was established in 1923. This clearcut resulted from the first timber sale on the Allegheny in 1927 and became the first research study area. This open condition allowed great amounts of sunlight to reach the forest floor which encouraged sun-loving plants like blackberries, pin cherry, aspen and yellow poplar to grow rapidly. Young forest habitat is essential for many migratory bird species, including some that nest in mature forest. Right after the young are fledged, they fly to the nearest young forest habitat to find the berries and insects they need to prepare for their long migratory flights, often as far as South America!  Deer, turkey, bears, and other wildlife also prefer to have some of this habitat in the forest. The fast growth rate of healthy young forests helps pull carbon out of the atmosphere and helps stabilize soil, supporting the water-filtering role that forests play.  Some of the pressure to establish the Allegheny National Forest had come from leaders in Pittsburgh, who hoped that forest regrowth would clear up the muddy water flowing by the Point in downtown Pittsburgh, and as the forest grew, the water began to clear.  


Photo of the little Arnot forest from 1947. Several trees have grown bigger

Twenty years later, the Little Arnot area was in the poletimber stage.  This is a stage of intense competition among the trees, and the canopy the trees create is so dense that the shrubs and wildflowers that grew in the young forest stage have been shaded out.  Rapidly growing trees continue to protect soil, soak up carbon, and add lots of oxygen to the atmosphere.  The taller trees shade streams, which helps to regulate the water temperatures for fish and other wildlife.


Photo of the Little Arnot from 1968. The trees have grown and there are smaller crowded trees behind

In only forty years, the forest had regained an appearance more familiar to us.  Maturing forests like this provide acorns, cherries, and beech nuts for bear, turkey, and other wildlife.  Competition between trees is less fierce than it was in the early decades, and filtered sunlight reaching the forest floor allows for the reestablishment of wildflowers like trillium, Canada mayflower, and others.  Tall and leafy crowns provide spots for bird nests, and growth is still fast enough to be important for soaking up carbon, stabilizing soil, and filtering potential water pollution. Campers and hikers enjoy the wooded scenery, and we all depend on sustainable supplies of wood for paper and fiberboard.


Photo of Little Arnot from 1998. The image has not changed much from 1988, with more branches down

Look at how much the forest has grown in 70 years! Because so much of the Allegheny Plateau was so heavily cut before 1930, most of the Allegheny National Forest was mature forest by this time. At this stage, the forest can produce the highest value wood products like furniture, cabinetry, flooring, or veneer. Turkey, bear, and other wildlife continue to thrive. People find great enjoyment pursuing a variety of outdoor recreation activities in mature forests. Research continues and is the basis for sustainable management of Allegheny hardwood forests not only on the Allegheny National Forest, but on adjoining public and private forests as well.


Photo of Little Arnot from 2018. The image has not changed much but the grass and bushes and bigger

As the Little Arnot plot passed its 90th birthday, its rate of growth was slowing. Across the Forest, black cherry, the most common species in the Little Arnot forest, was slowing in growth and seed production. Invasive insects, diseases, and plants, changes in air quality, soils, and soil microorganisms all affected the forest. Forest leaders and scientists have joined with stakeholders across the region to form the Allegheny Forest Health Collaborative, sharing resources and knowledge to sustain forest benefits in the face of these challenges.

On the Little Arnot plot, openings in the forest canopy became more common, allowing for an increase in the density and size of plants in the forest understory. As the demand for energy around the world increased, the privately owned oil and gas reserves below the Allegheny National Forest, left in private ownership when the Forest Service bought land to create the forest, were developed, including the oil and gas reserves beneath the Little Arnot plot. A well was drilled on one end of the plot in 2014. National Forest personnel worked with the owners of the subsurface to minimize the disturbance to the forest, and the Little Arnot plot continues to provide habitat for wildlife and plants. It continues to stabilize the soil and absorb carbon from the atmosphere, but there is also now a large amount of carbon stored in the large trees across the plot.

Here and elsewhere on the Allegheny National Forest and beyond, managers and scientists, industry leaders, colleagues from State agencies, non-governmental organizations, and community leaders are working together to prepare for the new changes facing the Allegheny National Forest as it enters its second century. What will the Little Arnot plot look like when our descendants celebrate the ANF’s bicentennial?