Swank, Wayne T

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Wayne T. Swank. 8 March 1936 – 10 November 2020, Franklin, North Carolina


Wayne Swank received his undergraduate in Forest Management from West Virginia University in 1958, a Masters in Silviculture from the University of Washington in 1960, and a Doctorate in Forest Physiology from the University of Washington in 1972. He first joined the United States Forest Service as a Forester (1959 to 1962) on the Lake Wenatchee Ranger District in Leavenworth, Washington. In 1966, he began his lifelong career in Forest Ecology, Hydrology, and Biogeochemical Cycling at the US Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station, Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, in Otto, North Carolina. During 1977-78, he served as Program Director for Ecosystem Studies, National Science Foundation. He was appointed Coweeta Project Leader in 1984 and served in that role until he retired from the Forest Service in 1999. He continued as an emeritus scientist and was a key Coweeta scientist until his passing. He was a pioneer in the use of small watersheds to understand ecosystem responses to disturbance and inform forest management. He revered all of the Coweeta scientists that came before him to build the science foundation that he advanced even further. He also had a deep respect for the members of the local community who built and maintained Coweeta, and served critical roles in administration, data collection, and data/sample analysis for decades.

In addition to his leadership at Coweeta, Wayne held numerous science leadership and advisory positions within and outside the Forest Service that significantly advanced our understanding of forest watershed hydrology and nutrient cycling in the US and across the globe. Examples include activities such as serving on the Professional Certification Board for the Ecological Society of America; Site Director in International Biological Program; member of U.S. National Directorate for Man and Biosphere, Temperate Forests and Biosphere Reserves; member of Steering Committee for development of Experimental Ecological Reserves II Program; co-chairman of Federal Committee on Ecological Reserves; member of External Oversight and Evaluation Advisory Committee for the Ecosystem Studies Program, National Science Foundation; served on committees convened by the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council including “Opportunities in the Hydrological Sciences” and “Biological Markers of Air-pollution Stress and Damage in Forests”; and served on the National Committee to evaluate the state-of-the-science related to the Safe Drinking Water Act. He also had a strong international presence and reputation including collaborative research activities with colleagues from Mexico, Turkey, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Australia; and invited visits, lectures, and keynote presentations at Nanjing University and Beijing Forestry University; the Chinese Academy of Sciences; the Chartered Foresters Annual Meeting, Edinburgh, Scotland; the Forest Hydrology International Symposium, Tokyo, Japan; and the International Conference on Integrated Catchment Management, Aberdeen, Scotland.

Wayne was generous with advice and ideas and he had decades long partnerships with numerous scientists in federal agencies, research labs, and universities locally and from across the world. A cornerstone of these partnerships was from competitive grants received from the National Science Foundation with close colleagues at the University of Georgia, including the Coweeta Long-Term Ecological Research Program. These programs, along with other grants totaling nearly $25 million from sources such as EPA, DoD, EPRI, and USDA, greatly expanded the scientific capacity and interdisciplinary research at Coweeta and helped fund substantial renovations of the Coweeta research infrastructure.

Wayne was deeply committed to the Forest Service and the Coweeta Mission. He guarded the long-term data and studies to ensure that the value of the public investment in Coweeta was fully realized. He also cared deeply about all of his employees and recognized the critical role that they played in Coweeta’s success. While Wayne was a serious scientist, he never took himself too seriously. He enjoyed a good laugh and a practical joke and created a joyful workplace. He was also a skilled poker player and relieved many Forest Service scientists and administrators of excess change in evening sessions at Forest Service Project Leader meetings over the years.

Finally, Wayne was an ambassador for Coweeta in Franklin, NC. He served passionately as a member of Franklin First United Methodist Church, the Rotary Club of Franklin, and as a founding member of the Little Tennessee Watershed Association (now Mainspring Conservation Trust).

Hydrological Achievements

Wayne Swank published two books that synthesized the state-of-the-knowledge on Coweeta Research and provided a comprehensive synthesis of the renowned forest cutting experiment on Watershed 7. Wayne was also a highly effective science communicator and directly transferred Coweeta science to thousands of visitors over several decades. His research was a blend of basic scientific inquiry and applied research to support forest management. He maintained and nurtured strong relationships with the National Forest System, especially the local Forest Service Ranger Districts who frequently partnered with Coweeta on large-scale collaborative studies such as the Wine Spring Creek Ecosystem Management Project.

Among his greatest contributions were in shaping the careers of students and early career scientists. He served as Adjunct Professor at six universities; primarily at University of Georgia, Clemson University and University of Florida. He formally served as supervisor, co-supervisor, or a committee member for more than 60 graduate students. Informally, he influenced the careers of hundreds of students who conducted their research at Coweeta, were employed as summer interns, or interacted with Wayne at meetings and workshops. As the Coweeta Research Program expanded under his leadership in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Wayne mentored several early career Forest Service scientists who now serve as the next generation of watershed ecosystem scientists at Coweeta and beyond.

Internationally, he was a major participant in the International Hydrologic Decade and contributed to numerous IUFRO symposia through invited presentations and as a moderator and an advisor. His contributions and leadership to forest ecosystem research in the International Biological Program and later, the Man and Biosphere Program and the Long-Term Ecological Research Program, have further developed and extended to a global scale, a body of knowledge on the response of forests and water including as a contributor, collator, and reviewer of a SCOPE volume on small catchments as a tool for environmental research with colleagues in the Czech Republic and Sweden.

Dr. Swank was also an invited lecturer on forest hydrology and ecology at Nanjing Forestry University and Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing; the Russian Academy of Sciences; and the Institute of Ecology and Silviculture, Padova University in Italy, and as a visiting scholar at Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, and Plymouth Universities in England.

He advised and collaborated with a scientific group at National University of Mexico in the development of an agroforesty watershed research program; collaborated under a Bilateral Agreement between US/Russia to conduct long-term hydrologic and water quality research; collaborated with colleagues at University of Istanbul, Turkey on hydrologic and biogeochemical cycles of Belgrad Forest (a water supply of Istanbul) to guide forest management decisions; and collaborated with colleagues in the Australian National University in modeling forest hydrology


Reference Material

Selected Publications


Swank, Wayne T., and Crossley DA Jr, 2012, eds. Forest hydrology and ecology at Coweeta. Vol. 66. Springer Science & Business Media,

Swank, Wayne T. and Webster, Jackson, R. 2014. Eds. Long-term response of a forest watershed ecosystem. Clearcutting in the southern Appalachians. Oxford University Press. 253 p.


Swank W.T.; Miner, N.H. (1968). Conversion of hardwood-covered watersheds to white pine reduces water yield. Water Resources Research. 4: 947-954.

Swank, Wayne T.; Goebel, Norbert B.; Helvey, Junior D. (1972). Interception loss in loblolly pine stands of the South Carolina Piedmont. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 27: 160-164.

Swank, W. T., & Douglass, J. E. (1974). Streamflow greatly reduced by converting deciduous hardwood stands to pine. Science, 185(4154), 857-859.

Boring, L. R., Monk, C. D., & Swank, W. T. (1981). Early regeneration of a clear‐cut southern Appalachian forest. Ecology, 62(5), 1244-1253.

Singer, F. J., Swank, W. T., & Clebsch, E. E. (1984). Effects of wild pig rooting in a deciduous forest. The Journal of wildlife management, 464-473.

Davidson, E. A., Swank, W. T., & Perry, T. O. (1986). Distinguishing between nitrification and denitrification as sources of gaseous nitrogen production in soil. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 52(6), 1280-1286.

Davidson, E. A., & Swank, W. T. (1986). Environmental parameters regulating gaseous nitrogen losses from two forested ecosystems via nitrification and denitrification. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 52(6), 1287-1292.

Mattson, K. G., Swank, W. T., & Waide, J. B. (1987). Decomposition of woody debris in a regenerating, clear-cut forest in the Southern Appalachians. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 17(7), 712-721.

Boring, L. R., Swank, W. T., Waide, J. B., & Henderson, G. S. (1988). Sources, fates, and impacts of nitrogen inputs to terrestrial ecosystems: review and synthesis. Biogeochemistry, 6(2), 119-159.

Swank, W. T., Swift, J. L., & Douglass, J. E. (1988). Streamflow changes associated with forest cutting, species conversions, and natural disturbances. In Forest hydrology and ecology at Coweeta (pp. 297-312). Springer, New York, NY.

Potter, C. S., Ragsdale, H. L., & Swank, W. T. (1991). Atmospheric deposition and foliar leaching in a regenerating southern Appalachian forest canopy. The Journal of Ecology, 97-115.

Qualls, R. G., Haines, B. L., & Swank, W. T. (1991). Fluxes of dissolved organic nutrients and humic substances in a deciduous forest. Ecology, 72(1), 254-266.

Clinton, B. D., Boring, L. R., & Swank, W. T. (1994). Regeneration patterns in canopy gaps of mixed-oak forests of the southern Appalachians: influences of topographic position and evergreen understory. American Midland Naturalist, 308-319.

Elliott, K. J., & Swank, W. T. (1994). Impacts of drought on tree mortality and growth in a mixed hardwood forest. Journal of Vegetation Science, 5(2), 229-236.

Maass, J., Vose, J. M., Swank, W. T., & Martínez-Yrízar, A. (1995). Seasonal changes of leaf area index (LAI) in a tropical deciduous forest in west Mexico. Forest Ecology and Management, 74(1-3), 171-180.

Bolstad, P. V., & Swank, W. T. (1997). Cumulative impacts of landuse on water quality in a southern Appalachian watershed 1. JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 33(3), 519-533.

Elliott, K. J., Boring, L. R., Swank, W. T., & Haines, B. R. (1997). Successional changes in plant species diversity and composition after clearcutting a southern Appalachian watershed. Forest Ecology and Management, 92(1-3), 67-85.

Swank, W.T. and Vose, J.M., 1997. Long‐term nitrogen dynamics of Coweeta forested watersheds in the southeastern United States of America. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 11(4), pp.657-671.

Knoepp, J. D., & Swank, W. T. (1998). Rates of nitrogen mineralization across an elevation and vegetation gradient in the southern Appalachians. Plant and Soil, 204(2), 235-241.

Elliott, K. J., Hendrick, R. L., Major, A. E., Vose, J. M., & Swank, W. T. (1999). Vegetation dynamics after a prescribed fire in the southern Appalachians. Forest Ecology and Management, 114(2-3), 199-213.

Qualls, R. G., Haines, B. L., Swank, W. T., & Tyler, S. W. (2000). Soluble organic and inorganic nutrient fluxes in clearcut and mature deciduous forests. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 64(3), 1068-1077.

Swank, W. T., Vose, J. M., & Elliott, K. J. (2001). Long-term hydrologic and water quality responses following commercial clearcutting of mixed hardwoods on a southern Appalachian catchment. Forest Ecology and management, 143(1-3), 163-178.

Johnson, D. W., Knoepp, J. D., Swank, W. T., Shan, J., Morris, L. A., Van Lear, D. H., & Kapeluck, P. R. (2002). Effects of forest management on soil carbon: results of some long-term resampling studies. Environmental Pollution, 116, S201-S208.

Knoepp, J. D., & Swank, W. T. (2002). Using soil temperature and moisture to predict forest soil nitrogen mineralization. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 36(3), 177-182.

Qualls, R. G., Haines, B. L., Swank, W. T., & Tyler, S. W. (2002). Retention of soluble organic nutrients by a forested ecosystem. Biogeochemistry, 61(2), 135-171.

Elliott, K. J., & Swank, W. T. (2008). Long-term changes in forest composition and diversity following early logging (1919–1923) and the decline of American chestnut (Castanea dentata). Plant ecology, 197(2), 155-172.

Burt, T.P.; Swank, W.T. (2010). Separating storm-hydrographs from small drainage-areas into surface-and subsurface-flow. Progress in Physical Geography. 34(5): 719-726.

Ford, C. R., Laseter, S. H., Swank, W. T., & Vose, J. M. (2011). Can forest management be used to sustain water‐based ecosystem services in the face of climate change?. Ecological Applications, 21(6), 2049-2067.

Serengil, Yusuf; Swank, Wayne T.; Riedel, Mark S.; Vose, James, M. (2011). Conversion to pine: Changes in timing and magnitude of high and low flows. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research. 26(6): 568-575. Tedela, N. H., McCutcheon, S. C., Rasmussen, T. C., Hawkins, R. H., Swank, W. T., Campbell, J. L., ... & Tollner, E. W. (2012). Runoff Curve Numbers for 10 small forested watersheds in the mountains of the Eastern United States. Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, 17(11), 1188-1198.

Tedela, NH; McCutcheion, SC; Campbell, JL; Swank, WT; Adams, MB; Rasmussen, TC. (2012). Curve numbers for nine mountainous eastern United States watersheds: Seasonal variation and forest cutting. Journal of Hydrologic Engineering. 17(11): 1199-1203.

Caldwell, P. V., Miniat, C. F., Elliott, K. J., Swank, W. T., Brantley, S. T., & Laseter, S. H. (2016). Declining water yield from forested mountain watersheds in response to climate change and forest mesophication. Global Change Biology, 22(9), 2997-3012.


Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory