This study is centered in a stand of rich mesic northern hardwoods indicative of the local landscape. The basal area is about 63ft2/acre (14.5m2/ha) with an average DBH of 12 inches (30.5cm). The stand is 90-110 years old and has the same cutover history of the rest of the local lands, and most of Wisconsin for that matter. It is speculated that the area may have been pastured for a period of time due to the evidence of some branching that appears more common on openly grown trees, but this was long ago. The soils are mostly excessively well drained Rosholt Fine Sandy Loams which support the rich mesic (ATM grading towards AH) plant community. To the south the soils transitions to Shawano Loamy Fine Sand but the difference is very minimal.
Management was absent until the Tribe entered the stand in 1999 and conducted a commercial thinning with the objective to begin converting the even-aged stand to an all-aged stand. Years after the harvest, little to no regeneration had developed however a sedge component was evident covering 75% to 100% of the forest floor. The problematic sedge component consisted mostly of Penn sedge (Carex pennsylvanica) with a component of longstalk sedge (Carex pedunculata). A few scattered sugar maple (Acer saccharum), white ash (Fraxinus americana), and black cherry (Prunus serotina) seedlings were present but were so deformed from years of deer browse it was a surprise they were even alive.
Though not excessively widespread, more and more areas are being noticed with this sedge carpet and little to no tree regeneration. Often these stands are associated with areas of high deer numbers, possible disturbance (i.e. pasturing), and along the edges of the forest. However, as the Tribe’s land base expands and the sedge inevitably continues its encroachment into the forest, the problem is sure to grow.
A few researchers have begun looking at the interactions of sedges and regeneration, often including the influence of deer. Randall and Walters (2005 Michigan SAF) studied the survival rates of planted sugar maple seedlings with and without sedge and with and without deer. Though the sedge limited seedling success, the effects were overshadowed by those of the deer. Similarly, Matula with the WDNR (Un-published as of 2014) showed the benefits of sedge control but still found that deer browse overshadowed the sedges. Interestingly, the discussions highlight the interactions between the sedges, the selectivity of deer browsing, and even earthworms all exacerbating the issue. Further, if climate change predictions are included, warmer drier summers can be expected in the future which seems to favor sedges. Warmer and drier summers, warmer and drier soils due to worms, mineral seedbed due to worms, potential for frost heaving, the impenetrable mat created by the sedges, and the un-palatable nature of sedge to deer all promote sedge over nearly all other species. How are managers supposed to combat such an issue with so much weighted against success? Though both great studies, the Tribal lands are unique with their extremely high nutrient levels, lower deer numbers, limited access, and greater freedom of management. The Tribe felt that the results of these studies could be used to develop a complementary study for the reservation and look at the effects of treatments within this different environment.