The study area stretches over some 3,000 square miles of public and private land from Crystal Falls to the west, east and south to Escanaba and north of Marquette. For two years, they examined the harvest gaps left in forests when hardwoods are cut down.
Researchers examined several aspects the amount of light in gaps of different sizes, competition from other plants on the forest floor, potential seed supply, and the relative richness and wetness of the soil. The goal: Determine what factors are affecting the regeneration of sugar maple. The results of this study fed into the development of a computer model designed to help balance those often-competing uses of the forests.
"Management paradigms for deer and northern hardwood forests have not only resulted in regeneration failure where deer populations are especially high but also in low tree regeneration diversity where they are not," Walters said. "These results and results from other projects by our research group are being communicated to forest managers and have resulted in their beginning to consider alternative management approaches for assuring the sustainability of this important resource."
What they found is that in the north, where heavy snows push deer populations south in search of food during the winter, sugar maple saplings generally are thriving in the harvested areas.
"In some areas, this timber harvesting technique works great," Matonis said. "We were practically swimming through saplings."
Yet in the southern portion of the study area, there were areas where no saplings survive. Saplings are a tasty snack for hungry dee
|Contact: Sue Nichols|
Michigan State University