Bernheim’s natural areas are home to thousands of native plant and animal species, including such spectacular animals as golden and bald eagles, and rare plants like Great Plains Ladie’s Tresses orchids. Because it’s the largest protected natural area in Kentucky, Bernheim is of great interest to researchers studying native species and natural communities and long-term ecological change. Researchers from area and national universities and organizations are eager to use Bernheim’s large protected forest for a variety of plant and animal studies.
Ongoing plant evaluation research in the nursery seeks to identify the best varieties of horticultural plants to grow in the region. Hybrid American chestnut trees are grown in the forest, in hopes of finding one resistant to the chestnut blight. The Wilson Creek stream restoration project relocated a major creek to its original bed, recreating important wetland habitat that had been lost for 100 years.
Studying the the old growth forest and its inhabitants helps Bernheim’s team of expert staff share the lessons they learn and influence actions beyond Bernheim’s border. Lessons learned within this forest can be shared and adapted to help preserve natural spaces across the United States.