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Cavity Trees, Snags, and Selection Cutting: A Northern Hardwood Case Study

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Although traditional application of the selection system includes a focus on high-value trees that may reduce cavities and snags, few studies have quantified those habitat features in managed uneven-aged stands. We examined the effects of single-tree selection cutting on cavity trees and snags in a northern hardwood stand immediately prior to the second cutting. Marking followed guidelines proposed by Arbogast, C., Jr. (1957. Marking guides for northern hardwoods under selection system. US For. Serv. Res. Pap. 56, Lake States Forest Experiment Station. 20 p.), with the objective of improving stand quality for timber production while maintaining a balanced diameter distribution. The stand contained seven species of cavity trees and snags; sugar maple and American beech were most common, the latter comprising 20% of snags and 26% of cavity trees despite its relatively minor (7%) contribution to stand basal area. We found that 92% of cavity trees were live, underscoring the value of living trees as sources of cavities. Precut cavity tree density (25.2 live cavity trees per hectare) was more than twice that found in other studies of selection stands, although density of snags (11.0 snags per hectare) was comparable or lower. More than 50% of sampled cavity trees were designated for removal in the second selection cut, reducing projected postcut density to 11.0 live cavity trees per hectare, a density similar to that found in other studies. Postcut density of large cavity trees (3.3 live trees >45 cm dbh per hectare) exceeded published guidelines for northern hardwoods (0.25 to 2.5 live cavity trees >45 cm dbh per hectare). We speculate that the relatively high maximum diameter (61 cm dbh) and long cutting cycle (20 years) used to define the target stand structure may have contributed to the number of cavity trees observed. Nevertheless, selection cutting as applied in this study will likely reduce cavity abundance unless retention of trees with decay is explicitly incorporated into the management strategy.
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Keywords: cavities; northern hardwoods; snags; uneven-aged silviculture; wildlife habitat

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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    Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry covers northeastern, midwestern, and boreal forests in the United States and Canada.
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