EAST LANSING, Mich. Since the 1950s, sustainability in northern hardwood forests was achieved by chopping down trees in small clumps to naturally make room for new ones to spring up. Early experiments with single-tree and group selection logging found that desirable species like sugar maples did a great job of regenerating in the sunny, rain-drenched harvest gaps theoretically eliminating the need to replant.
But something has changed.
In a sweeping study of a huge swath of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Michigan State University researchers document that in many places, the sugar maple saplings that should be thriving following harvesting are instead ending up as a deer buffet. This means the hardwood forests are not regenerating.
The results of the study, "Gap-, stand- and landscape-scale factors contribute to poor sugar maple regeneration after timber harvest," are published in this month's online edition of the journal Forest Ecology and Management.
"We've found that deer, light availability, and competition from non-tree plant species are affecting sugar maple regeneration in parts of the Upper Peninsula," said Megan Matonis, who recently earned a master's degree in forestry while a member of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at MSU. "No sugar maples are regenerating in the southern area near Escanaba. In the future, this could challenge the sustainability of timber harvesting in this region."
Forest conservation is a persistent push and pull between maintaining crops of hardwoods, especially sugar maple, for the timber industry and herds of deer for hunters. The interplay between these conflicting resource uses can also impact bird habitat. Indeed, when Matonis, joined by Michael Walters, MSU associate professor of forestry, and James Millington, former post-doctoral researcher and now a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at King's College in London, ventured into the U.P. forests for the stu
|Contact: Sue Nichols|
Michigan State University