This spring, a planned experimental manipulation and a red pine harvest have UMBS affiliates yelling “TIMBER!”
But arborists and nature-lovers need not be alarmed. Both harvests are pre-planned in accordance with ongoing UMBS research and forest management best practices.
Adaptive Aspen Management Experiment
As part of the Adaptive Aspen Management Experiment (AAME), mature aspen and select other species are being harvested around the Honeysuckle Creek Watershed. The project, led by primary investigator and UMBS Associate Research Scientist Luke Nave, aims to produce immediate changes in forest composition and structure that would otherwise play out over time in the successional trajectory of harvested stands. Removal of mature aspen will allow regeneration of new aspen and birch trees, increased growth of non-dominant species, and succession to a more structurally and compositionally diverse cover type. Removal of aspen at the extreme end of their lifespan will also make these wooded areas safer for runners, bikers, and recreationists.
Broader goals of the experiment include leveraging total-ecosystem research to better inform forest management strategies, especially in the context of the environmental changes brought on by a warming climate. The project fits into the wider Climate Change Response Framework through the USDA Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science.
Red Pine Harvest
Since 1991, UMBS has maintained a red pine plantation on Riggsville Road just west of the Station. Plantations like this, typical of northern Michigan and other Lake States, are managed for habitat, biodiversity, and economic value. They can also serve as useful sites for research. Michigan Tech forestry students helped develop a management plan for the UMBS plantation as a capstone project. From planting to harvest, these plots often follow a 60-90 year cycle.
Benefits of the prescripted harvest include improving safety conditions on Riggsville Road by decreasing shade and ice build up, diversifying forest structure and age class, protecting marketable timber, and enhancing wildlife habitat.
The timber companies involved with both projects have posted signs along the road and access points to warn motorists that trucks and equipment will be moving around the site. Later this month, UMBS staff and researchers will tour a local sawmill where much of the timber is destined.