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Effects of Management on the Composition and Structure of Northern Hardwood Forests in Upper Michigan

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To improve our understanding of how management affects the composition and structure of northern hardwood forests, we compared managed with unmanaged sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) dominated forests. Unmanaged old-growth and unmanaged second-growth forests provided baselines for comparing the effects of even-aged and uneven-aged forest management on selected aspects of biological diversity. Three replications of each condition were located on the Winegar Moraine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Old-growth forests were multistoried, dominated by a few, large trees with well-developed crowns extending over a subcanopy stratum 10–15 m in height and an abundance of woody vegetation (mostly sugar maple seedlings) at 2–3 m. This complex stand structure contrasts with the relatively uniform structure of unmanaged second-growth forests with a closed overstory canopy and limited understory development. Forest management, both even- and uneven-aged, created forest structures that were more complex than their unmanaged second-growth baselines, yet managed forests lacked some of the structural complexity characteristic of old-growth. Managed forests had fewer large trees (stem diameter at 1.37 m > 50 cm) and considerably less basal area in dead trees when compared with old-growth. There were fewer tree species in managed forests because commercially important tree species were favored for retention and, when present, early successional species (e.g., Populus grandidentata Michx., Populus tremuloides Michx.) were harvested. A subcanopy comprised of large shrubs and small trees characteristic of old growth was absent in managed forests, but this structural element may develop with time under management. As expected, thinning the overstory and disturbing the forest floor through tree harvesting promoted understory development in managed forests. Most of the added species, however, were common in the landscape and thus added little to overall species richness. FOR. SCI.48(1):129–145.

Keywords: Acer saccharum; Michigan; Plant diversity; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; natural resource management; natural resources; northern hardwoods; old-growth; silviculture; stand structure

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: North Central Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Grand Rapids, MN, 55744, Phone: (218) 326-7110; Fax: (218) 326-7123 2: Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, 37901 3: North Central Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Rhinelander, WI, 54501 4: North Central Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Grand Rapids, MN, 55744

Publication date: February 1, 2002

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