In words and pictures.
As some of you may know I'm a professional forester. I work for a consulting forestry firm, and our work involves managing timberlands to achieve the owner's objectives, be they timber, wildlife, recreation, water quality, aesthetics, or some combination of them all.
I have a longtime friend and client who has acquired some local timberland over the years. Prior owners didn't exactly engage in what I might term the "best" forest management; there's been a history of high-grading (cutting the best timber and leaving the rest) for the past 75-100 years.
As a result we've been left with a stand with a HEAVY beech understory and midstory. Now, beech is pretty much a trash tree; poor form, prone to rot and hollow, and it's just not worth very much. My client wants to encourage oak regeneration, but with all that beech the oak really doesn't have much of a chance. What we've been doing since 2014 is a basal herbicide treatment on the beech to kill it off, let a bit more light onto the forest floor, and remove the competitive pressures that all that beech is having on oak regneration.
Here's a spot we treated about 2 weeks ago. Note the near thick midstory; most of that is beech and it's in the way.
Broadleaf Beech TSI 2018 by FredMan, on Flickr
Here's an area we treated last year. All those beech stems are dead, but still standing. Note how we're starting to get some more light onto the forest floor. Oaks are generally shade-tolerant species; regeneration thrives in partial sunlight but can't really compete with near full-shade conditions.
Broadleaf Beech TSI 2017 by FredMan, on Flickr
Here's an area we treated in 2015. All those beech stems have now fallen to the ground. See how light is now getting down to the floor? See all that green stuff on the ground? That's oak regeneration. That's what we're after.
Broadleaf Beech TSI 2015 Oak Regen by FredMan, on Flickr
And here's what things look like from our first year of treatment, in 2014. A nice healthy crop of oak seedlings starting to come into their own. All those dead sticks you see on the ground (and standing on the left side of the frame) is beech.
Broadleaf Beech TSI 2014 Oak regen by FredMan, on Flickr
As you might imagine, this is a lengthy process. Will take decades to achieve our desired future condition, and neither my client nor myself will likely live long enough to truly see the ultimate result. But his children and grandchildren surely will, and while I do this work because I love the woods (and hell, they DO pay me to do it!) I also get great satisfaction out of gently nudging Mother Nature down a preferred path.
Op is a good man. I was impressed with the result.
Neat I was wondering what you did for a living that had you traveling all over.
Today we'll talk about southern pine plantation management. There are millions of acres in the south planted in loblolly pine, to about 550 trees per acre. Once a pine plantation reaches a certain age (generally 15-18 years) competition between the trees for light, water, and nutrients begins to slow growth. We solve this problem through thinning.
Here's an example of an unthinned, 16 year old lob plantation. Note the crown closure and all those stems.
BI2051 Unthinned by FredMan, on Flickr
The standard thinning regime is an operator-select, 5th row thin. This means we take out every 5th row, primarily to provide adequate access into the stand for further cutting and skidding. Here's what the 5th row removal looks like. The 5th row takes out about 100 trees per acre.
BI2051 Takeout Row by FredMan, on Flickr
Next comes the "operator select" part. The cutter-man selectively harvests trees on the remaining rows, removing small, suppressed, poorly formed, or otherwise inferior trees to end up with out final post-thin stand density objective; in this case 210 trees per acre. So he goes through, removing about another 200 trees per acre, or about half the remaining stems. Here's what things look like after we're all done.
BI2051 Thinned by FredMan, on Flickr
We'll wait about 8 years and thin this stand again, down to about 125 trees per acre. Then we'll let that grow for another 7-10 years and clearcut it, and plant back another 550 trees per acre.