The role of young, recently disturbed upland hardwood forest as high quality food patches
Young (1-2010 year post-disturbance) upland hardwood forests function as high-quality food patches by providing abundant fruit, and nutritious foliage and flowers that attract pollinating and foliar arthropods and support high populations of small mammals that, in turn, are prey for numerous vertebrate predators. Reductions in basal area increase light penetration to the forest floor, which stimulates vegetative growth and promotes fruiting. Fruit biomass (dry edible pulp) can be 5 to nearly 50 times greater in young forest than mature forest as "pioneer" species, such as pokeweed and blackberry, ericaceous shrubs, various forbs and grasses, and stump sprouts of many tree species produce fruit. Forage production can increase substantially after disturbances that significantly reduce overstory basal area, such as timber harvests, heavy thinning, or intense prescribed fire. Hard mast (nut) production can be sustained in young forests if some mature, good mast-producing oak, hickory, or beech trees are retained. Balancing the creation of young, recently disturbed upland hardwood forests with the desired amount and distribution of other forest age-classes will sustain high-quality food patches for wildlife within a landscape context.