Forestry provides long-term gain: Part 2

The benefits of managing Michigan’s forests.

The benefits of managing Michigan’s forests. Photo credit: Bill Cook l MSU Extension
The benefits of managing Michigan’s forests. Photo credit: Bill Cook l MSU Extension

This is the second of three Michigan State University Extension articles highlighting the benefits of forest management. This article summarizes the video titled, “Forestry: From Fear to Facts”. Links to all three videos can be found at the end of this article.

Our Michigan forests offer us beautiful scenery. The trees and shrubs paint the landscape green in the summertime, yellow, orange and red in the fall, and are delicately covered with snow in the winter months. Wildflowers color the forest floor in the spring and summer. And wildlife abound, delighting us with periodic sightings.

The variety of these scenes found in Michigan can in part, be attributed to good forest management. Managing the forest can include cutting some trees to increase the health of the remaining trees while increasing the variety of habitat for wildlife. More information on the benefits of forest management can be found by visiting Michigan State University Extension Forestry website.

Necessities of Tree Growth

It is common knowledge that trees require three things to be healthy: water (nutrients), air and sunlight. Most trees in a forest are able to obtain enough of these necessities to live, but may not obtain enough to thrive. This is because trees growing close together must compete for the requirements. One tree may grow faster than others, leaving the others to struggle to obtain sunlight in its shadow. Water and nutrients can also become limited in areas with a lot of trees, leaving some trees alive, but with a lower growth rate and less vigor than the dominating trees.

Why are growth rate and vigor important? They are indicators of the health of the forest. Without management, many forests become stagnant, with live trees that may grow very little each year. Trees in this situation may also become stressed, and more likely to succumb to disease, or unable to survive attack by insects. Not managing a woodlot can put it at risk.

In Michigan, there are a variety of management activities that can help you meet the goals you have for your property. The type of management used, depends on the tree species growing on the site and their preferred method of regeneration. No matter what the management activity, rest assured trees will grow back; regenerating either from seed or by roots, that sprout after the tree is removed.

The Michigan Society of American Foresters, in conjunction with MSU Extension, has produced the publication, Michigan Forests: Our Growing Resource, which provides more detail on regeneration and additional facts about Michigan’s forest management activities.

Management Aftermath

The forest scenery immediately following a management activity may shock some folks, but the image is only temporary. Watching a forest regenerate and grow with renewed vigor following a management activity is a rewarding experience that can be enjoyed for years to come. Just think of all the new trees, habitat for wildlife, and forest colors that flourish as a result of our management decisions.

If we want healthy forests into the future, it is important that we manage them today.

More information about managing your forest can be found by visiting the MSU Extension Forestry website or the Michigan Forest Association website.

Dr. Potter-Witter, Michigan State University, Department of Forestry, worked with Great Lakes Production to orchestrate the production of three short videos highlighting the benefits of forest management.

Other articles in this series:

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