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Fernbank Museum’s Conservation Work: Restoring an Ecosystem

Fernbank Museum has a long history of protecting Fernbank Forest.

Fernbank, Inc., which is familiarly known as Fernbank Museum of Natural History, was founded in 1939 to preserve and protect Fernbank Forest, making it one of the oldest environmental conservation not-for-profit in the United States. The conservation of Fernbank Forest remains a vital part of Fernbank Museum’s mission today.

Following the first phase of extensive restoration, Fernbank Forest will be open to self-guided tours daily beginning September 24, 2016. Fernbank Forest is free for Fernbank members and free with Museum admission.

Fernbank Forest is special.

Fernbank Forest, acquired for preservation by Fernbank’s founders nearly a century ago, is a 65-acre old-growth hardwood forest located in metropolitan Atlanta. Fernbank Forest is located within the museum’s campus, and after the fall 2016 grand opening, can be accessed through 10 acres of new educational paths and exhibitions located in WildWoods.  

The U.S. Forest Service notes that forests are vital parts of the water, nutrient and carbon cycles that support life on the planet. Trees clean the air, moderate temperature, buffer noise, provide wildlife habitat, protect the soil from erosion, regulate water storage and affect water quality. Although Fernbank Forest is one of the largest assemblages of such land in the Piedmont region of the United States, it is a small remnant of the type of majestic forests that originally covered this area.

Fernbank Forest is much more than what you see above the surface. With some trees up to 300 years old, some ultimately fall and remain on the forest floor, creating opportunities for other organisms to thrive. Beneath the surface lies the foundation for the forest. The soil geology and microorganisms are essential to the continued survival of the ecosystem and are some of the oldest elements of the forest.

Not only does Fernbank Forest contain some of the most common species of the Piedmont region, it also is home to rare and threatened species that help support the high biodiversity and adaptive ability of the ecosystem.  

Fernbank Museum is working to make Fernbank Forest healthier.

Fernbank Museum resumed management of Fernbank Forest in the summer of 2012 after the maturation of a 48-year lease to DeKalb County. Like many urban forests, Fernbank Forest has been burdened with nearly 50 non-native, invasive species, including English ivy, Chinese privet and more. The museum has set in motion several ambitious goals to restore the ecological balance of this incredible forest.

The restoration of Fernbank Forest is a forever, ongoing project that also includes educational programming and research within the forest. Fernbank Museum’s comprehensive restoration program includes the completion of several important benchmarks:

Fernbank Forest remains open for educational programming throughout the year.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History offers the following opportunities to explore Fernbank Forest:

Fernbank provides opportunities for free access to Fernbank Forest.

There are several ways to enjoy access to Fernbank Forest, including many that are free of charge.

The Museum’s new outdoor nature activities and exhibition will not be located within Fernbank Forest.

Fernbank Museum’s work inside Fernbank Forest is focused on ecological restoration, including trail management, pond restoration, removal of invasive species, and creating an ecological balance for native species.

WildWoods, which features new outdoor nature exhibits, will be immediately adjacent to the museum, located outside the boundaries of the protected forest. These additional 10 acres of restored woodlands serve as the educational pathway into Fernbank Forest. Learn more