Upland Hardwood Silvicultural Workshop Goes Virtual

bent-creek-prescribed-fire
Periodic prescribed fires can improve foraging conditions for species like the endangered Indiana bat. Other species, like the Eastern box turtles, are particularly vulnerable to fire-induced damage. Photo by Julia Kirschman, USFS.

In July, state forest agencies, National Forest System managers, and others convened digitally for the Upland Hardwood Silvicultural Workshop. The virtual workshop, organized by the USDA Forest Service Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management Research Work Unit, consisted of half-day sessions in which natural resource practitioners learned the most up-to-date hardwood forest management practices based on scientific research from across the southeastern U.S.

After a several-year hiatus, the long running workshop was resurrected because state forestry agencies repeatedly requested the training for their employees. The Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management RWU has offered similar trainings since 1992, although previous workshops were offered in person.

The workshop was organized by Tara Keyser, project leader, Callie Schweitzer, research forester, Stacy Clark, research forester, and Julia Kirschman, technology transfer specialist.

Scientists from the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station, Northern Research Station, Forest Health Protection, State and Private, Forest Products Laboratory, Forest Inventory and Analysis and universities gave regionally tailored presentations on topics ranging from oak regeneration to management effects on wildlife.

Paul Merten, an entomologist with Forest Health Protection, talked about managing invasive plant species in the upland hardwoods region, raising awareness that some common forest management practices can introduce and accelerate the presence of invasive plant species.

For example, timber harvesting can introduce more sunlight onto the forest floor and cause a flare-up of lingering invasive plants suppressed by a lack of light. Timber harvesting equipment can move invasive plant propagules between parts of forests or even across state lines. Mechanical disturbance of species like the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) can cause prolific root sprout growth, multiplying the problem ten-fold.

invasive-tree-of-heaven
The invasive tree-of-heaven (Alianthus altissima) is a fast-growing, prolific seed producer that can resprout after being cut, making it a difficult plant to manage. Photo by Steven Severinghaus, via Flickr.

Merten reminded forest managers that they must know the characteristics of the species they are trying to eradicate from their land. He also acknowledged that beating invasive species can be tough work, adding that “in order to beat the weed, you have to be tougher than the weed.”

In another session, University of Tennessee professor Craig Harper discussed the impacts of forest management on wildlife. He emphasized that all species require different vegetation types for different stages of life–wild turkeys depend on low brush, deer prefer open woodlands, and golden-winged warblers rely on young forests. The basic principle of wildlife management is to provide and maintain the appropriate vegetation types and successional stages in a suitable arrangement for desired wildlife species.

To do this, Harper emphasized the need for wildlife biologists and silviculturalists to work together on clearly defined management goals. All management practices, from clearcutting to dormant-season fire and selective thinning, alter vegetation structure to favor some species over others. Temporal and spatial variation in management techniques is key to protecting wildlife diversity while maintaining sustainable forests.

Katie Greenberg spoke about the importance of management diversity in her presentation on protecting non-game wildlife species, such as amphibians and breeding birds.

The four-day workshop featured many other sessions, ranging from a talk by Jan Wiedenbeck on the relationship between fire and timber quality to another by Stacy Clark on the artificial regeneration of oak and American chestnut trees.

By learning more about science-based practices in their region, natural resource practitioners can tailor their forest management to optimize for economic outcomes and environmental health.

The presentations were recorded and available for National Forest System employees, state forestry partners, and the public on the Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management Research Work Unit website.

For more information, email Julia Kirschman at julia.e.kirschman@usda.gov.

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