The SCBI Large Forest Dynamics Plot (LFDP) is located at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park’s Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA, adjacent to the northern end of Shenandoah National Park. The plot is located at the intersection of three of the major physiographic provinces of the eastern US: the Blue Ridge, Ridge and Valley, and Piedmont provinces. The forest type is typical mature secondary eastern mixed deciduous forest, with a canopy dominated by tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), hickories (Carya spp.), and oaks (Quercus spp.), and an understory composed mainly of spicebush (Lindera benzoin), paw-paw (Asimina triloba), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), and witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana).
The SCBI forest plot is 25.6 ha (640 x 400 m) and the initial dbh measure and tagging occurred in 2008 and the installation finished in 2009. In total 40,411 stems ≥1 cm dbh were tagged, measured, identified, and mapped representing 62 species, 38 genera and 28 families. Also 7 species of woody vines were found and ca.250 species of herbaceous plants have been identified. Within this LFDP there is a 4-ha fenced exclosure where white-tailed deer have been excluded since 1990, as well as three 1-ha Smithsonian Monitoring and Assessment of Biodiversity Program (SI-MAB) sites, with some sites surveyed several times since 1990. A meteorological tower near the plot has been operational since 2010. Additional data on woody debris, seedlings, seed rain, litterfall, soil characteristics, small mammals, pollinators, invasive worms, and dendrochronology has been generated. The second census for this temperate forest plot took place in 2013.
SCBI is also one of 81 NEON field sites. The National Science Foundation's National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a continental-scale ecological observation facility. NEON collects and provides open data from sites across the United States that characterize and quantify how our nation's ecosystems are changing. The comprehensive data, spatial extent and remote sensing technology provided by the NEON project will contribute to a better understanding and more accurate forecasting of how human activities impact ecology and how our society can more effectively address critical ecological questions and issues. NEON data and resources are freely available to enable users to tackle scientific questions at scales not accessible to previous generations of ecologists.