Holt Research Forest Summer Technicians (left) describe their process for collecting regeneration data to Downeast Magazine reporter, Peter Smith.
Holt Research Forest summer research technicians Marin Harnett and Jack McCann are making significant progress a few weeks into their field season. This summer, Maine TREE is pursuing several avenues of research, which center around the harvest that occurred in the winter of 2020/2021. This recent harvest serves as a perfect opportunity for applied forestry research, allowing us to ask important questions about the impacts of the harvest. The research aims to yield valuable information to help forest managers and woodland owners make informed decisions in the future. This summer, some of our questions included: How did the harvest influence growth of unharvested trees? Has reducing the forest density promoted or increased regeneration in the understory?
Marin and Jack will be conducting a timber inventory of the study area, an approximately 100-acre section of the Holt Research Forest where the recent harvest occurred. Trees not harvested experience reduced competition, providing them more room to grow and access water, sunlight, and nutrients. As such, the residual trees may experience increased growth post-harvest. However, decreasing the density of a forest may also leave residual trees exposed to environmental stressors such as pests, climate stress, and disease. Our timber inventory will collect information about the trees’ size, health, and condition. Then we can compare this data to pre-harvest inventory data, allowing us to investigate how the harvest impacted the growth of the residual trees here at HRF.
Mature trees are certainly not the only ones impacted by harvesting. Marin and Jack have also completed regeneration surveys throughout the study area. These surveys involve identifying and counting the number of seedlings in fixed plots and larger saplings. Similarly to the timber inventory, we can compare the post-harvest data to what was quantified pre-harvest to answer our research questions. We hope to find that the harvest promoted increased tree regeneration – as mature trees were removed and openings created on the forest floor for new trees to grow. Sunlight is one of the critical components necessary for tree growth. Opening up gaps in the forest canopy should help increase the regeneration of certain species that cannot grow successfully in the shade of a dense forest.
The data collected by Marin and Jack this summer and the research questions we can address will shed valuable insight into how harvesting impacts oak-pine forest types. In addition, this information will provide helpful insights into future forest management planning.