Monday, September 30, 2013

BMP's for Timber Harvesting and Invasive Plants

When trying to control invasive plants we often talk about using an integrated approach or "integrated vegetation management."  I write about this on my Forest Vegetation Management web site.  Each form of control is highlighted with an emphasis on chemical since this is often the most productive approach when manpower and dollars are limited.  It was brought to may attention that the US Forest Service has a new publication out entitled Proposed BMP's for Invasive Plant Mitigation During Timber Harvesting Operations.  I thought I would share this with my readers, since my vegetation site does not specifically address the disturbance opportunity associated with timber harvesting. 

Invasive plants are opportunistic and disturbance adapted.  This is something I have really begun to notice about the ongoing battle with invasive plants.  On many properties visited I have been reluctant to recommend a harvest since it often means opening the door for invasive plants to get a strong hold on the site.  It can be a tremendous cost in time and money to keep invasive plants under control.  By implementing some of the Best Management Practices (BMP's) outlined in the publication maybe we can keep the invasion of invasive plants to a minimum.  It is certainly something to consider prior to harvesting.

Abstract: The invasion and spread of invasive plants is a major problem in forested ecosystems. Invasive plants can displace existing vegetation and in some cases take over the site. With the displacement of native vegetation come major ecosystem changes that may jeopardize ecological processes and functions as well as habitat for wildlife. The disturbance caused during timber harvesting processes creates conditions that encourage the establishment and spread of invasive plants. The machinery and traffic movement within a job site may introduce and spread seeds, roots, and plant parts from one job site to another. In this report, we address the timber harvesting processes and the disturbance that is created; explain how seeds, roots, and other parts of invasive plants can be spread; address the opportunity costs involved and those responsible; and propose voluntary BMPs for invasive plant mitigation during timber harvesting operations.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Looking at Four Centuries of Change in Northeast Forests

A Harvard-Smithsonian study released on September 5th in PLOS ONE compared modern forests to their pre-colonial condition.  The purpose of the study was to answer the fundamental question: How similar are today's forests to those existing prior to European colonization?  What they found might surprise you. 

Researchers looked across a 9 state region from Pennsylvania to Maine comparing more than 300,000 witness tree records and compared them to modern US Forest Service data.  The northeastern United States is a predominately forested region (80% forested) that has undergone a 400-year history of intense logging, land clearing for agriculture, land abandonment, and natural reforestation. During the 18th and 19th centuries more than half the forestland was cleared for agriculture and cut for timber. Most farms were eventually abandoned, and during the 20th century, forests returned. 

A view of the Swift River Valley in Central Massachusetts,
 photographed in 1890. The image shows extensive forest
 clearing for agriculture.
Photo courtesy of the Harvard Forest Archive.
The same view photographed today. Forests have made
 a similar recovery in many parts of the Northeastern U.S.
Photo by David Foster.
Below are a number of key findings:
1. Looking only at a tree species list Northeast forests haven't changed.
2. Maples have exploded across the Northeast, increasing by more than 20%.
3. Beeches, oaks, and chestnuts have declined sharply.  This is of concern for wildlife depending on nuts for winter survival.
4. Pine numbers have shifted more than any other tree type, increasing in some places, decreasing elsewhere.
5. Colonial farming history was found to be the most powerful factor in determining modern forest composition -- more powerful than regional climate, soil conditions, and numerous other factors.
6. Todays forests are more homogenous and less responsive to small changes in temperature and precipitation.

David Foster, a co-author on the study, indicated that despite the impacts of disturbances such as forest clearing, widespread logging, fires, climate change, invasive pests, and disease, the Northeast remains the most heavily forested region of the country.  Foster also notes, "If we do not replace forests with houses and pavement, they will endure future challenges as well."

Click here to read the news release, browse photos, download the full scientific paper, and more.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why We Must Engage the Next Generation of Hunters

I came across this post on a Nature Conservancy site.  Thought I would share with my readers.  The post was made on August 22nd on their Science page by Allen Pursell.  On August 28th the story was picked up by Forbes writer William Pentland.  I often speak about the impact of deer on forest regeneration and their influence on the predominance of invasive plants in Pennsylvania.  Here are some numbers that I often share:

In timber stands that are only 40-70% stocked and in need of regeneration to replace trees that were harvested or died from natural causes nearly half lack the advanced regeneration necessary to regenerate.

When looking at only tree seedling species considered desirable for timber production: Almost 2/3's of the acres would likely fail to regenerate.
If we include all commercial species then: Half would likely fail to regenerate.
Lastly, if we include all woody species, this includes those that are not commercial or desirable, then we are still only at 54% meeting the regeneration criteria.  Again, nearly half would fail to regenerate.
(2009 data collected by the US Forest Service Forest inventory and Analysis)

From what I have seen around the state this has not changed much over the past 4 years.  I would suspect that very similar conditions still exist.  Can all this be attributed to deer?  Another study conducted in NW PA found that in 85% of the cases when the forest failed to regenerate simply excluding the deer made the difference.  That leaves 15% of the failures attributed to other reasons.  Give the below articles a read and let me know what you think?  Is this issue bigger than climate change?  Are these reasons to begin engaging our youth?

Here is a link to a Penn State Extension publication and curriculum you may find interesting and helpful when engaging youth.
From the Woods: White-tailed Deer
White-tailed Deer Lesson Plans

Too Many Deer: A Bigger Threat to Eastern Forests than Climate Change?
(The Nature Conservancy, August 22, 2013)

In August, 2012 The Bloomberg View published a staff editorial entitled Deer Infestation Calls for Radical Free-Market Solution. The Wall Street Journal then ran a story in November 2012 entitled America Gone Wild, noting the impact of overabundant deer. If business news organizations can talk freely about deer, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) needs to speak openly as well. Aldo Leopold long ago warned us of the problems of a growing deer herd. Have we waited too long to heed his advice, or is there still time to reverse the damage done?

No native vertebrate species in the eastern United States has a more direct effect on habitat integrity than the white-tailed deer. There are no hard numbers, but in many states deer populations continue to rise well beyond historical norms. In many areas of the country deer have changed the composition and structure of forests by preferentially feeding on select plant species.

To read the full story click here.

Move Over Global Warming! White-tailed Deer Pose Biggest Threat to East Coast Forests
(Forbes, August 28, 2013)

The rapidly rising population of white-tailed deer pose a more significant threat to forest habitats across the eastern United States than global warming according to a new study by The Nature Conservancy.

To read the full story click here.