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USDA Forest Service
Northeastern Research Station

Forestry Sciences Laboratory

PO Box 267
Irvine, PA 16329

(814) 563-1040

 United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

This photograph shows an Allegheny Plateau forest stand. Allegheny Plateau forests are largely second-growth forests that -originated after extensive turn-of-the-century harvests. These forests contain tree species of widely different growth rates and tolerance of shade. Stand Development and Intermediate Treatments Intermediate treatments, or non-stand-replacing disturbances, create predictable changes in forest conditions. We plan to strengthen our understanding of the effects of intermediate treatments on wood production, wildlife habitat, herbaceous plant communities, and carbon sequestration, and develop associated guidelines and indicators of sustainability. Historically, intermediate treatments in forested stands have been undertaken primarily for their contribution to wood products objectives. We will continue to study the effects of these treatments on wood production. But as our understanding of the relationships between wildlife species and important habitat components increases, we recognize that intermediate treatments may also be used to promote specific kinds of wildlife habitat. Similarly, as we enhance our understanding of the relationships among herbaceous plant species and site and stand conditions, we may develop intermediate treatment prescriptions to enhance the sustainability of herbaceous communities.

As we have accumulated data about songbird, small mammal, amphibian, and herbaceous plant communities of Allegheny Plateau forests, we are learning which stand and site characteristics are important to which species. During the next five years, we hope to translate this understanding into prescriptions to enhance these characteristics. Such prescriptions might include release treatments for understory conifers, treatments to reduce canopy closure or promote cover within the shrub layer. In addition, we have the opportunity to enhance our understanding of how changes in species composition, growth rate, and understory development associated with different intermediate treatments may affects soil carbon pools and overstory carbon sequestration rates. Preliminary results based on large scale models suggest that these differences are quite small, but we have the opportunity, with sufficient resources, to test these results through direct study. We continue to learn about the relationships between intermediate treatments and wood production, as well. Our work on this problem will include these four tracks:

  1. We will develop inventory and prescription tools to measure and enhance habitat for wildlife and herbaceous plant species.

    We will develop an inventory and computer-based expert system to predict which songbird, small mammal, and amphibian species will find optimum or satisfactory habitat conditions within specific forest stands. We hope to develop similar predictive relationships for herbaceous plant species. Existing data show that certain key wildlife habitat components can be enhanced by silvicultural manipulation, and that certain graminoid species appear to increase in the environment created by herbicide-shelterwood or shelterwood-herbicide treatments. We will integrate these results into the NED and SILVAH expert systems, allowing forest and resource managers to improve habitat for these species when consistent with management objectives.

    Primary partners for this work include US Forest Service Research Work Unit NE-4454 (Burlington, VT, the NED development team), the Allegheny National Forest, and Kane Hardwoods, a Collins Company. While we will conduct the primary work for this problem at the stand scale, we will incorporate landscape influences in our research.


  2. We will increase our understanding of early stand development in Allegheny Plateau forests and its interaction with intermediate treatment.

    We will use both current studies and long-term data sets to learn more early stand development and explore the impacts of precommercial treatments, including fertilization, crop tree-thinning, and area-wide thinning. We will study the wildlife and herbaceous plant communities of these forests with and without silvicultural treatment, as well as the wood production response to treatment.

    Primary partners in this work at present include the Allegheny National Forest, International Paper Company, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and the Eastern Ontario Model Forest. We will conduct this research primarily at the research plot and stand level.


  3. We will develop and refine our understanding of the effects of species composition on the wood production responses to thinning in Allegheny Plateau forests.

    Previous results from long-term thinning studies suggest that in stands with high proportions of shade-tolerant species, especially black cherry, wood production is optimized at higher residual densities than previously believed. We will continue to monitor a recently installed study to validate this observation.

    Our partners in this work are Forest Investment Associates, Inc. This research will occur at the research plot and stand level.


  4. As resources permit, we will study the impacts of intermediate treatments and associated changes in species composition and growth rate affect carbon sequestration rates and carbon pools in Allegheny Plateau forests.

    To date, research on the contribution of forests and forest management to global carbon cycles have occurred at regional and national scales. As markets for carbon credits develop and strengthen, participation will require information at a finer scale. As resources permit, we will both superimpose carbon measurements on existing silvicultural studies, and, where justified and permitted by resources, install new studies to enhance our understanding of the effects of forest management on carbon cycles at the scale at which it is actually practiced.

    Primary partners in this work include the USFS Northern Global Change program, the Allegheny National Forest, and the Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry.