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Northern hardwood silviculture at a crossroads: Sustaining a valuable resource under future change

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Rogers, Nicole S.; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Kern, Christel C.; Bèdard, Steve

Year Published

2022

Publication

Forest Ecology and Management

Abstract

Northern hardwoods are an economically, ecologically, and culturally important forest type spanning the upper latitudes of the United States and the lower latitudes of Canada. The prevalence and value of these forests have driven silviculture research for over a century. During this time, silvicultural approaches have varied widely, searching for scenarios to meet traditional commodity-based and diversifying ecological forestry objectives. To better understand this forest type and the spectrum of appropriate silvicultural options, we analyzed regional inventory data from the United States and Canada and synthesized decades of scientific studies. Calculated overstory tree (stems ≥ 12.5 cm diameter at breast height) metrics show common structural conditions across mature northern hardwood forests and dominance of sugar maple (Acer saccharum). However, density and composition metrics for established reproduction (saplings 2.5 to 12 cm dbh) emphasize challenges for establishing and maintaining economically and ecologically valued trees species broadly and regionally. Our work underscores the variation in northern hardwoods within and across its distribution, driven by characteristics like disturbance regimes, land use history, and ownership patterns. We conclude maintaining this important forest type amid climate uncertainty and associated effects, like proliferation of exotic insects and diseases, requires recalibration of historically applied silvicultural systems and application of emerging tools.

Keywords

Northern hardwood forest; Silviculture; Long-term management; Global climate change

Citation

Rogers, Nicole S.; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Kern, Christel C.; Bèdard, Steve. 2022. Northern hardwood silviculture at a crossroads: Sustaining a valuable resource under future change. Forest Ecology and Management. 512(3): 120139. 15 p. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2022.120139.

Last updated on: May 23, 2022