orests are an important part of our state’s environment and economy. When they are well managed, forests provide clean air and water, homes for wildlife, beautiful scenery, places for recreation and more than 5,000 products we all use every day. But when they are not well managed, forests are often unhealthy and unproductive because of overcrowding, disease, insects, and competition for light, water and nutrients. To maintain or improve the health and productivity of a forest and to achieve the landowner’s objectives for the property, foresters use a number of management techniques, including prescribed burning, thinning, harvesting and planting.
In forest management, trees are harvested for a variety of reasons including improving the health of the forest; controlling the types of trees that grow on the site; attracting certain wildlife species; providing a source of income for the landowner; producing paper, lumber and numerous other forest products; and improving access to the area for hikers, hunters and other recreational users.
ust as there are many reasons for harvesting trees, there are many different harvesting methods. Each method has its benefits, drawbacks and conditions under which it is the most suitable way to harvest trees. No one harvesting method is ideal for all situations.
When trees are crowded together, they are in greater competition for sunlight, nutrients and water. As a result, they tend to be less healthy and to grow less vigorously. To improve the health and productivity of the forest, forest managers may thin the forest or remove a portion of the trees -- usually low quality trees that are competing with healthier trees for sunlight, water and nutrients. Thinning allows the remaining trees to grow faster and stronger and improves the growth of the forests understory by increasing the amount of sunlight that reaches the forest floor. This understory growth provides more food and cover for animals such as deer, quail and rabbits.
The wonderful thing about trees is that they are a renewable resource. This means that they can be grown, harvested, replanted and harvested again and again in a never-ending cycle to provide clean air and water, habitat for wildlife, beautiful views and thousands of products both today and in the future.
The process of growing trees on an area that previously has been harvested or cleared is called reforestation. The two basic methods of reforestation are natural regeneration and artificial regeneration.Natural regeneration relies on nature to return an area to forestland after trees are harvested. Through natural regeneration, new trees grow from seeds that are carried by the wind, transported or buried by animals, or that are simply dropped on site by mature trees. In addition to producing seedlings from seeds, hardwood trees regenerate naturally by sprouting new growth from the stumps of cut trees.
Artificial regeneration involves human intervention in sowing seeds or planting seedlings. This method of forest renewal has several advantages over natural regeneration. It provides better control over tree spacing, more control over the species present in the new forest, the opportunity to plant genetically improved seeds or seedlings, and a higher rate of tree survival. Although artificial regeneration is more expensive than natural regeneration, the result is usually a more productive stand in a shorter period of time.
Most people are aware that devastating wildfires destroy thousands of acres of forestland every year, but they dont realize that controlled or prescribed fire can actually be good for a forest.
Prescribed burning is a forest management practice that benefits certain forests by reducing the amount of leaves, branches and dead trees accumulated on the forest floor that could fuel a wildfire. In addition to helping control the spread of wildfire, removal of this "litter layer" also promotes the growth of new forage and succulent plants, which are important sources of food for many wildlife species including rabbits and deer. And the increase in available insects and seeds following a prescribed fire is good for turkeys and a variety of nongame species.
While improving wildlife habitat, prescribed fire also promotes the health of the forest by controlling the spread of disease and insect infestations, and reducing plant competition for nutrients, water and sunlight. This management technique is commonly used in longleaf, shortleaf and loblolly pine forests because these trees are naturally resistant to fire. In fact, the longleaf pine requires fire for its seeds to germinate.
Each stage of succession provides different benefits to a variety of wildlife species. In fact, many species need more than one forest type to meet their needs. Rodents and rabbits prefer early successional forest where there are plenty of grasses and shrubs for food and shelter. Deer also need food found in early succession, but require the denser cover of middle and late succession for shelter and escape from danger. Birds of prey nest in mature forests, but feed on rodents and snakes found in early succession. Other wildlife, such as squirrels, find both their food and shelter in mature trees.