Answering forest management questions

Although I’ve been working on new ideas since leaving Michigan and returning to London about a year ago, there’s still lots to do to examining alternative forest management strategies.

Several years ago we set out to develop a simulation model that could be used to investigate the effects of interactions between timber harvest and deer browse disturbances on economic productivity and wildlife habitat. We’ve already published several papers on this work, but just before Christmas we submitted a manuscript to Ecological Modelling entitled ‘Modelling for forest management synergies and trade-offs: Tree regeneration, timber and wildlife’. In the manuscript we report error analyses of the full simulation model (which uses the USFS Forest Vegeation Simulator) and use the model to investigate scenarios of different timber and deer management actions. Our results indicate that greater harvest of commercially low-value ironwood and lower deer densities significantly increase sugar maple regeneration success over the long term.

I expect we’ll also report some of these results at the Fourth Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) Conference to be held in April this year in Fort Collins, CO. Our abstract, entitled ‘Investigating combined long-term effects of variable tree regeneration and timber management on forest wildlife and timber production using FVS’, has been accepted for oral presentation. It would be great to be there myself to present the paper and discuss things with other FVS experts, but I’m not sure if that will be possible. If it’s not, Megan Matonis will present as, handily, she’s currently doing her PhD in that neck of the woods at Colorado State University.

In the meantime, Megan and I are in the process of finishing off a different manuscript describing the mesic conifer planting experiment we did in Michigan. In that experiment we planted seedlings of white pine (Pinus strobus), hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), and white spruce (Picea glauca) in northern hardwood stands with variable deer densities and then monitored browse on the seedlings over two years. We found that damage to pine and hemlock seedlings was inversely related to increasing snow depth, and our data suggest a positive relationship between hemlock browse and deer density. These results suggest that hemlock restoration efforts will not be successful without protection from deer. Hopefully we’ll submit the manuscript, possibly to the Northern Journal of Applied Forestry, in the next month or so.

All of this work has been pursued with management in mind, so it was nice this week to receive a call from Bob Doepker, a manager at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources with whom we worked to co-ordinate data collection and establish key research questions. Bob had some questions about the details and implications of our previous findings for deer habitat, tree regeneration and how they should be managed. It was good to catch up, and no doubt our ongoing work will continue to contribute to contemporary management understanding and planning.

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