Initial stand recon of 24-12 occurred in 2004, for the 2007 harvest. Though the stand was poor to average quality, likely due to direct and indirect poor past management, the option of even age management was not considered as practicing all aged management was the standard operating procedure. This resulted in a heavy selection harvest (residual basal area 68 ft2/ac). Even today, conducting a selection harvest to 68ft2/ac is not an uncommon practice in the County Forest. The issue in stand 24-12 is that the residual trees are simply overgrown, poor quality and low vigor. Looking back, this stand should have been managed even aged in 2007 with a shelterwood harvest and subsequent overstory removal.
Thoughts to Ponder:
In the absence of extreme limiting factors like invasives and very high deer numbers, are foresters un-intentionally limiting regeneration success by not adequately creating canopy & light conditions sufficient enough to give desired species the competitive advantage over undesirable species or conditions, while still treating a stand within the side boards of acceptable management? Given the huge differences in regeneration in stand 24-12 (figures 1-3 versus figures 4 and 5), I would say that is a distinct possibility.
A lot of our management guidelines, with regard to managing northern hardwoods, are based off managing the overstory to produce the best growth and highest value products. They provide rather limited guidance on what intricate factors influence establishing regeneration, largely because they are difficult to identify, difficult to create or simply out of our control. A lot of times, factors like sedge, ironwood, deer, worms get blamed solely for poor regeneration. They cannot be dismissed, as deer exclosure results don’t lie, but a lot of times these factors get more blame than they deserve, because they are easy to identify and are known culprits foresters are looking for. In reality, we may be over looking simple subtleties that we can control, such as residual stand density levels, harvest timing and site prep, to name a few, that very well may play just as big of a role in establishing regeneration as the easy to identify culprits.
We also need to consider the historic disturbance regime, past disturbances and events. The fact that today's forests are a result of conditions from the past gets overlooked too often. We expect to get regeneration if we properly implement a accepted silvicultural treatment on a given stand and little if any consideration is given to what the conditions might have been that created the current stand. If we choose to regenerate a forest but cannot closely enough replicate the conditions (biotic & abiotic) of the past, or that are suitable for a particular species we should not expect to get the same results and the stand will begin to transition to a different species mix or cover type based off the disturbance we created and conditions at that time.
Ashland County Forest has made regeneration a priority and has made financial and work load commitments to treat stands to establish regeneration when it is lacking. Seeing this stand’s contrasting conditions and having been involved with it in 2006/2007, as well as implementing a continual sedge / ironwood treatment program, really made us take a step back and ask the question: are we really managing stands appropriately to establish adequate regeneration? Or are we managing the overstory and hoping for regeneration? As foresters, is the order of what's important with regard to managing hardwood stands changing? We believe as more of us recognize regeneration short falls, it is changing. Growing young trees is at or near the top for many of us. The point we want to make is, as our priority objectives change, our overall management strategy will likely need to be adjusted away from our historic management bench marks to attempt to meet our objectives.