MOFEP Overview

Project Lead

  • Shelby Timm
  • Megan Buchanan
  • Brad Graham

Project Partners

  • University of Missouri
  • Central Methodist University
  • United States Forest Service
Inside the forest of MOFEP


MOFEP provides science-based information to forest managers so they may employ management practices that ensure healthy and sustainable forest, fish and wildlife resources while also providing opportunities to all Missouri citizens to use, enjoy and learn about their forest resource.


MOFEP was initiated in 1989 amid concerns over the impacts of clearcutting on neotropical songbirds. Specifically, increased pressure from nest predators and the nest parasite, the brown-headed cowbird , were causing declines in nest success, especially along forests edges created by the clearcuts.

drawing of brown-headed cowbirds in nest

Scientists were initially interested in learning more about the impacts of forest management on breeding songbirds in the Missouri Ozarks, a heavily forested portion thought to be a potential source for numerous neotropical species. However, it was quickly realized that there were also questions about forest management impacts on other ecosystem components.

Living Components
• Trees
• Plants
• Birds
• Amphibians and Reptiles
• Small Mammals
• Invertebrates
• And more!

Non-living Components
• Soil
• Geology
• Weather and climate
• Carbon
• And more!


One of the first challenges was to find the best location for MOFEP. The project needed to be on state-owned land and on forests that had not been cut in at least 40 years so that the sites had similar forest structure and age. The answer was found in the heavily forested Ozarks in southeastern Missouri. Nine sites, each about 1,000 acres, are located on the Current River Conservation Area in Shannon and Reynolds counties and the Peck Ranch Conservation Area in Carter County.

MOFEP site map

In 1990, the installation of study plots and the collection of pre-treatment data began. The first management treatment occurred in 1996, followed by more data collection and a second management treatment in 2011. To measure the long-term impacts of forest management, MOFEP will continue to implement treatments and collect forest data for 100–200 years!

MOFEP Forest Management Systems

MOFEP was designed to study the impacts of three common forest management systems on ecosystem components: even-aged management, uneven-aged management, and no harvesting.

Each MOFEP site was randomly assigned one of these three management systems. Each site functions as an operational forest compartment that is further divided into smaller units called stands.

Forest compartment divided into smaller units called stands

Within each management system there are various harvest methods available for foresters to use to help accomplish their management objectives. These harvest methods are applied at the stand level. Only a portion of stands within a site are treated during each harvest entry and it is for this reason that MOFEP is a 100+ year project; it will take that long for the entire site to be conditioned to its assigned management system. Once the entire site has been conditioned to its management system, even-aged sites will resemble a patchwork of stands, each comprised of trees of similar ages grouped together, while uneven-aged sites will have a mixture of tree ages across the entire site. In no harvest management, the forest is left alone to grow and mature naturally without intervention and serves as our experimental control. The experimental control allows researchers to determine if the ecosystem response is due to forest management or other factors such as climate change.

Even-aged Management

Even-aged compartment

In the even-aged system, trees are cut using methods such as thinning and regeneration harvests (e.g., clearcuts with reserves). Thinning removes smaller or unhealthy trees to give more growing space to the healthiest trees. Regeneration harvests remove most trees in a stand so that a new cohort of uniformly-aged trees can be established and start growing.

Uneven-aged Management

Uneven-aged compartment

With the uneven-aged system, foresters select scattered individual trees or small groups of trees to cut. Uneven-aged and even-aged management remove similar amounts of timber from the sites. To do this, uneven-aged management enters more of the forest stands compared to even-aged management, which only enters a small percentage of stands. Another way to think about it is uneven-aged management is extensive, whereas even-aged management is intensive.

Uneven-aged and even-aged site with 1996 harvest treatments

No Harvest

In no harvest management, trees will die of natural causes, but are not cut down. Monitoring uncut forests provides a comparison of how the forest changes naturally to how it changes after tree harvesting.

The three forest management systems and the specific harvest methods used within each system

By putting the three forest management systems into action in a controlled way, researchers can observe both the immediate and long-term effects of forest management on different components of the ecosystem.

Project Updates

MOFEP News Announcements

• October 14, 2023- Washington University students participate in a MOFEP site tour and training. Students practiced MOFEP woody vegetation protocols and navigated to plots via map and compass!

• April 1, 2023- Missouri Valley College biology students participate in a MOFEP site tour and training. Students practiced MOFEP bird and woody vegetation protocols and learned navigation skills!

• October 15, 2022- Washington University biology students participate in a MOFEP site tour and training. Students practiced MOFEP botany and woody vegetation protocols and learned navigation skills!

• June 1, 2022- Dr. Knapp (Associate Professor, University of Missouri) and co-authors publish “Escaping the fire trap: Does frequent, landscape-scale burning inhibit tree recruitment in a temperate broadleaf ecosystem?” in Forest Ecology and Management.

• May 24, 2022- We held our annual MOFEP tour for the University of Missouri forestry students and the MOFEP bird crew started their field season.

• October 1, 2021- The Missouri Conservationist publishes a NatureLab article about MOFEP's contribution to MDC's new integrated planning tool. View the article here.

• August 26, 2021- Dr. Zhaofei Fan published "Scale effects on the prediction of rare events in mature second-growth oak forests: a simulation study of cavity trees" in Forestry Research. Find the publication here.

• May 25, 2021- MOFEP site tour for University of Missouri forestry students.

• May 17, 2021- The MOFEP bird crew started their field season. Crews are continuing to follow COVID-19 safety precautions.

• January 2021- Dr. Shunzhong Wang (Visiting Scholar, University of Missouri) and co-authors publish “Forest management effects on downed dead wood at stand and landscape scales in a temperate forest of the central United States” in Forest Ecology and Management.

• November 2020- David Hollie (Graduate Researcher) and co-authors publish “Avian community response to experimental forest management” in Ecosphere.

• October 2020- Dr. Benjamin Knapp (Associate Professor, University of Missouri) presented the recent downed dead wood research at the Society of American Foresters National Convention.

• September 28, 2020- MOFEP Coordinator, Shelby Timm, presents a scientific poster on her recent publication on less common herpetofauna at The Wildlife Society virtual conference.

• May 18, 2020- The MOFEP bird crew started their field season. This year will be very different for the crew due to COVID-19 safety precautions.

• January 8, 2020- Shelby Timm (MOFEP Coordinator) and co-authors publish “Assessing multi-scale habitat relationships and response to forest management for cryptic and uncommon herpetofauna in the Missouri Ozarks, USA” in Forest Ecology and Management.

Project Datasets

No datasets have been added to this project.