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Silvicultural Prescriptions Affect Hardwood Tree Quality Over Five Decades of Management

Photo of The mean proportion of grade 1 butt logs for the diameter-limit, single tree selection, and partial cutting harvests as estimated at 15 year fixed intervals. USDA Forest ServiceThe mean proportion of grade 1 butt logs for the diameter-limit, single tree selection, and partial cutting harvests as estimated at 15 year fixed intervals. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Analysis of 50-year records of harvests on the Fernow Experimental Forest in west Virginia by Forest Service scientists demonstrates that diameter-limit cutting is not a sustainable practice in regard to tree quality. In contrast, single-tree selection has not affected stand quality and is sustainable.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Brown, John 
Research Location : Fernow Experimental Forest
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 877

Summary

A 50-year study by Forest Service scientists of data collected from the Fernow Experimental Forest (FEF) in West Virginia provided an opportunity to test for differences in the quality of trees harvested from three silvicultural practices. The harvest types are diameter-limit cutting, patch cutting, and single-tree selection. Harvest records from the years 1967 to 2013 include the butt log (the log taken from the base of a tree) grade for trees harvested from 18 compartments on the FEF. Cruise data from the mid-1980s was also available to assess residual stand quality in between harvests. The proportion of grade 1 butt logs was compared for each of the three harvest types over time. Researchers found that the diameter-limit proportion of grade 1 butt logs consistently decreases while patch cutting and single-tree selection proportions consistently increase for the period of record. While the proportions for each treatment differed significantly in the first 30-year period, at year 45 only the single-tree selection and diameter-limit proportions differed. Trends suggest that the proportion of grade 1 butt logs for each treatment is converging. Recent pre-harvest cruise data indicates that the diameter-limit harvests are not sustainable whereas the single-tree selection harvests are sustainable. Additional analysis is needed to assess the sustainability of patch cutting.

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