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Managing forests requires a bird's-eye view
Date:6/2/2011

Managers of northern Michigan forests may not see the birds for the trees or at least are in danger of losing sight of songbird neighborhoods when looking out for timber harvests.

In a novel look at managing both the future's timber harvest while being mindful of the impact on key songbirds in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Michigan State University researchers use a new forest simulation model for the first time to look at what timber-friendly hardwood regeneration can mean to bird habitat. And it's a long-range look, given that the time lag between forest management decisions and impact are generations.

The results are reported in "Combined long-term effects of variable tree regeneration and timber management on forest songbirds and timber production" online in the journal Forest Ecology and Management.

"Foresters are farmers but instead of sowing and harvesting in six months, they need to think 50 years in the future," said James Millington, the paper's lead author and former post-doctoral researcher at Michigan State University's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS). "If you are worried about the state of the forest in 100 years time, you need to think about it now and you'll need good models like we're developing."

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is home not only to a thriving timber industry, but also is an important breeding ground to many songbird species of conservation concern. Birds, Millington explained, are particular about their neighborhoods having specific preferences for how open the forest canopy is and how high and sturdy branches are. If a forest changes considerably as it is harvested and regrows, birds won't be as successful at nesting and reproducing.

Paper coauthors are Michael Walters, associate professor of forestry; Megan Matonis, who recently earned a master's degree in forestry while a CSIS member; Edward Laurent, a former CSIS doctoral student now science coordina
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Contact: Sue Nichols
nichols@msu.edu
517-432-0206
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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