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Sustainable Landowner Options for Aspen Forests Charly Ray, Northern Ecosystem Services Jason Fischbach, UW-Extension June 8, 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Sustainable Landowner Options for Aspen Forests Charly Ray, Northern Ecosystem Services Jason Fischbach, UW-Extension June 8, 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sustainable Landowner Options for Aspen Forests Charly Ray, Northern Ecosystem Services Jason Fischbach, UW-Extension June 8, 2013

2 Project Collaborators USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Grant Program UW Extension USDA NRCS office Ashland Northland College and the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute (SOEI) Chequamegon Bay Area Partnership (CBAP) George Lulich The Nature Conservancy

3 Sustainable forestry Historic forest cover and type Representative range of disturbance Watershed conserving management Producing a range of forest products from pulp to sawtimber from a range of natural species


5 Large Dead Trees

6 Coarse Woody Debris

7 Forestry in our Region Must Recognize Historic Disturbance and Succession


9 Aspen/Birch Maple/Basswood Forested area in thousand acres The Forest is Succeeding…Will We Let It?

10 Conifer migration from drainages Upland management for aspen Longer-lived species are still present, but will depend on humans to recover.

11 What’s Wrong With Aspen Nothing but…. Open vs. closed watershed function Short life=limited market window Limited products (pulp with limited sawlog) Habitat limitations: lacks winter thermal cover, mast, coarse woody debris, mid and lower canopy Sustainability of continued rotations is suspect



14 The Aspen Management Box Aspen is short-lived, relatively easy to harvest, and has a ready market Aspen regenerates vigorously in clearcuts outcompeting other species – it’s easy to manage Industry and government encourage aspen Plus deer are strongly limiting white pine and red oak regeneration in places

15 Are There Other Options?

16 Alternatives to Clear-Cutting Aspen Do nothing (let nature run its course) Cut all aspen but leave everything else (slow transition) Cut some of the aspen (hastened transition) – Capture some value of aspen – Limit suckering to encourage other species – Lack of seed and deer are major challenges – Risk of losing forest to brush or low-quality red maple


18 Species Diversity

19 Project History Living Forest Cooperative – interested in value added products from forests and conservation management of forests – not just for timber Many landowners with aspen interested in some harvest but not clearcuts Little in the research or field regarding alternatives to clearcutting in aspen – focus on production



22 Components of Forest Ecosystems that Enhance Ecosystem Function

23 What We Know About the Project Location

24 Glacial Advance and Retreat Created Our Soils and Topography

25 Land Type Associations

26 Pre-Settlement Vegetation Circa 1860 Project Location (White Pine-Red Pine)

27 Variability in the Clay Plain – Habitat Types

28 Habitat Typing Helps Us Understand the Potential of a Site

29 Often What’s Growing Now Is Not Maximizing the Potential of the Site


31 Quast Property 40-50 year old aspen dominated stands Minor component of white pine, spruce, red maple, balsam, northern hardwoods Enrolled in MFL Conservation easement Fish Creek

32 Forest Stands A 5-11 2 /A 0-5 1 MFL required a harvest of the aspen

33 “Complete a shelterwood type harvest reducing crown closure to around 60%. The goal is to discourage aspen regeneration but allow more light to reach the understory to encourage natural and planted mixed pine/hardwood seedlings. Leave conifers for a seed source. Complete by 2012. Then within 5 years of the shelterwood harvest, establish an understory of seedlings of 900 seedlings per acre in conifer or hardwood seedlings other than aspen. May need to plant in order to do this. If understory meets stocking requirement, remove part or all of the remaining overstory where it can be done without damage to the understory. If understory stocking does not meet requirements, remove entire overstory to regenerate aspen. Cut all trees down to 2 inches DBH. Any healthy pine or spruce may be left. Snag and den trees may be left for wildlife.” MFL Alternative Mandatory Practice for the stands

34 Our Research Project What is the right amount of aspen to remove via an “aspen shelterwood” on the clay plain? We set up a timber sale to remove varying amounts of aspen Evaluate the response at 1, 7, and ? Years… – Residual aspen (mortality and growth) – Aspen suckering – Non-aspen growth and regeneration – Shrub growth and colonization

35 Methods Marked harvest in February 2005 Plots established prior or immediately after harvest White pine planted at 300 tpa in April 2005 Data collected in fixed radius plots by FIA technician 1/10 th acre plots for overstory trees 1/300 th acre plots for seedlings and saplings



38 The Data








46 What Happened to the Residual Aspen?

47 West Side

48 Average: $70.39/acre revenue to landowner

49 West Side







56 Residual Aspen Summary There was some mortality, but no clear relationship to residual basal area or removal intensity Continued growth resulted in a net gain of volume seven years after harvest Although value was left in the forest at the initial harvest, that value has appreciated and has provided aesthetic and other benefits Economic analysis is not yet complete

57 What Happened In the Understory?






63 Understory Summary Aspen and non-aspen tree regeneration and growth was sufficient to meet stocking levels, but not clearly correlated with overstory basal area The long-term competition between shrub and trees remains unclear More analysis remains to be done

64 Take Home Message Let’s go to the woods and take a look

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