|The Mature Hardwood Forest
The origin of the Set-Aside Program on the Savannah River Site (SRS)
can be traced to 1951, when the Atomic Energy Commission-Savannah
River Operations Office (AEC-SROO) invited the Universities of Georgia
(UGA) and South Carolina to conduct land-use surveys and ecological
inventories at the newly acquired Savannah River Plant (SRP). These
surveys and inventories gathered baseline ecological data from different
habitats on the SRP to monitor ecological impacts from plant construction
and operation. As part of the land-use survey, UGA scientists selected
representative examples of the ecological habitats known to exist
on the SRP, so that research projects could be conducted in them.
Early recognition by the AEC of the value of these ecological habitats
set the stage for the present SRS Set-Aside Program.
|The sandhills habitat,
represented in the Set-Aside Program, is becoming increasingly rare
in the southeastern United States.
In 1967, the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL) selected seven
areas on the SRP and recommended that the AEC set these aside as examples
of the various ecosystems on the SRP. In 1968, these areas, combined
with three habitats previously allocated to UGA, were granted set-aside
status and officially were called SREL Reserve Areas. These ten areas,
totaling 892 acres (0.5% of the SRP), permanently were set aside by
the manager of the AEC-SROO to represent and protect examples of the
major plant communities and habitat types within SRP boundaries. These
areas, protected from public access, forest management, and most routine
Site activities, offered locations for long-term ecological research
as well as "reference" sites for collecting data to compare
with other areas of the SRP that could be impacted in some way by
Site operations. That same year, the Society of American Foresters
(SAF) registered two Natural Areas on the SRPthe Boiling Springs
Natural Area and the Scrub Oak Natural Area. These two areas, added
to the ten SREL Reserve Areas, gave the SRP 12 areas recognized as
part of the SRP Habitat Reserve System.
|Upper Three Runs Creek,
part of the largest Set-Aside Area on the SRS.
In 1988, a document was prepared for SREL describing the role that
Set-Aside Areas play in natural resource management on the SRS and
a proposal was submitted to DOE by SREL to expand the program by adding
long-term study sites, additional representative habitat areas, and
SAF Natural Areas. In 1989, as a result of this proposal, the DOE
approved the addition of 18 areas to the program, resulting in 30
Set-Aside Areas totaling 14,005 acres (5,668 ha), or 7% of the land
on the SRS. The 30 Set-Aside Areas encompass the eight vegetation
communities characteristic of the SRS: old-fields, sandhills, upland
hardwoods, pine forests, bottomland forests, swamp forests, Carolina
bays, and fresh water streams and impoundments. These 30 areas are
designated as DOE Research Set-Aside Areas.
|Set-Aside Areas, originally
marked with white painted blazes, now are marked with white signs.
SREL serves as custodian for the 30 DOE Research Set-Asides and provides
day-to-day ad-ministration of the SRS Set-Aside Program, including
boundary maintenance and coordination of the activities of SREL and
other contractors within and around the Set-Aside Areas. The Set-Aside
Program receives guidance and technical advice from the Set-Aside
Task Group, which was established in 1992 under the auspices of the
Natural Resources Coordinating Committee (NRCC) to assist DOE in the
management of the natural resources of the SRS. The Set-Aside Task
Group ensures that the Set-Aside Program meets the objectives of the
"Set-Aside Protection and Management" Plan, which stipulates
- Set-Aside Areas are for research, not for intensive management
- Set-Aside Areas should receive as little management as possible,
- Set-Aside Areas should be protected to remain as natural as possible
with little or no human influence, and
- Set-Aside Areas are primarily for nonmanipulative research, with
no research being conducted in a Set-Aside Area that would alter
the long-term value of the Set-Aside.
Purpose of the DOE Research Set-Aside
|Rare and sensitive plants
are found in Set-Aside Areas.
The 30 Set-Aside Areas serve a number of functions on the Savannah
River Site, including the following:
- Set-Aside Areas serve as sources of "control" data for
compliance-mandated environmental monitoring activities because
they are not associated with normal Site operations and forest management
- Set-Asides serve as reference "clean" areas which can
be assessed for appropriate reference or "end-point" species
used in ecological risk assessments of potentially contaminated
- Set-Asides provide baseline information on how SRS natural communities
are structured and how they function in a setting relatively unimpacted
by human activities, thus providing targets for how restoration/remediation
activities should proceed to restore disturbed and contaminated
areas to functioning biological systems.
- Set-Asides provide areas in which to conduct long-term ecological
research, to enhance our understanding of how communities on the
SRS function and how these communities may be impacted by human
- Some of the Set-Asides have been documented to
contain significant archaeological sites and the "Set-Aside"
status of these Areas serves to preserve and protect these cultural
- Set-Aside Areas provide natural settings for educational
and public outreach activities.
of the SRS
to Research Snapshots)