Work continues on protecting and preserving 11.5 acres of old-growth forest on the Virginia Tech campus commonly known as Stadium Woods. Last summer, senior Emily Newton of Blacksburg established permanent plots that can be used to measure the ecological health of the forest over time. She measured the size and species of the trees to establish a baseline on the forest’s current state and examined whether new trees are beginning to grow from existing vegetation in a process called natural regeneration. Newton also worked with several community groups to remove invasive plants like privet, multiflora rose, and oriental bittersweet throughout the woods.

“Having this information allows us to take the actions necessary to ensure the health of the trees,” said Professor John Seiler. “For example, if we find few or no seedlings in our sampling locations, we’ll know that the trees are not naturally regenerating, and that may mean we need to plant seedlings or take other corrective actions.”

The research project and removal of invasive plants are two of the recommendations included in the stewardship plan for the site, written by Rodney Walters, who completed his master’s degree in urban forest ecology and management last year. The 377-page plan includes a list of recommendations the university is considering for implementation.