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This page is dedicated to visitors who want to have some understanding of the basis of long term forest management.  If you have additional questions about processes and actions, please do not hesitate to contact meAs someone who sincerely cares about forests and their management, I consider educating others paramount to my profession.

A forest can be a relatively benign place or a magical place depending on the viewers imagination and his/her admiration for the surrounding environment.

A forest is not just made of trees.  Trees are the easiest things for us to see because of their relative size when compared to us.  Consider using a "ground up" approach and think about the forest starting from the bedrock, moving through the soil levels, up through the leaf litter and herbaceous growth and finally through the different canopy levels of trees. There are also many other externalities that affect the way the forest looks and feels.

Each forest is unique. Even within the same types of forests, there are many unique attributes to that specific area of land.  A few of those different attributes are explained on this page

Site/Site quality:

A site is an area of land that has defined boundaries and very similar physical attributes throughout.  The soils, slopes, aspects (direction that the slope faces), water table levels and nutrient levels would be very similar on a site. Distinct sites can vary within a few feet of each other on a geographical scale, but usually there is a zone between separate sites that has characteristics of each of the different sites called a transition zone.  The land can differ drastically in site quality (production levels) because of the variety of these (and other) attributes.  A higher quality site is simply a site which can grow trees larger and faster than a lower quality site.  The definition of quality is the degree of excellence the site holds for vegetative growth.

Diversity:

There are two types of diversity most often focused on during management considerations; genetic diversity and species diversity.
Genetic diversity is the variability of genes within a population of a species. This is generally not the primary consideration of current forest management, but is important for ongoing research (some, but not all of which is controversial), and should be of interest to the casual observer that diversity in the genetic code is caused naturally by mutations (changes) in the genetic code over time.  These changes over time have been a primary factor in the differing life forms you experience in any natural environment.
It is possible that in the future, genetic diversity could become a more important consideration for the land manager as research in molecular biology and biotechnology advance.

Species diversity is a primary consideration for current forest management. Species diversity is the variation of species and populations levels of those species that are present on a site. This is most often called “diversity” in the media. Like site quality above, it is often dependent on the site’s physical attributes that allow for a narrow or broad ability to cater to the growth and reproduction of differing species.  Just as these four concepts above are interconnected with each other, so are the organisms and abiota (all nonliving things) on all levels throughout the forests.

Hot wild ginger (Asarum canadense) root tea mixed with real maple syrup makes a delicious after dinner drink.  An interesting species of limited commercial interest, it is present in a somewhat broad array of Eastern Hardwood and Western coniferous forests, but with particular site requirements, the populations are clumped based on the attributes of the randomly distributed sites that support it.

Caution: Don’t collect forest plants for food, drink or medicine unless you have the knowledge to correctly identify, use and conserve them. There are many plants in the woods that will kill you if you make a mistake, and potentially reduce overall diversity if harvested without taking their conservation into consideration. Many organisms depend on others - and we may depend on them.  There are endless past and ongoing lessons in the changes of our natural world that are a continuing result of human ignorance and error that cause the effect of a lesser Earth for our own enjoyment and growth as one species of many.  Nature is more complex than it appears.

Succession:

Succession is the term used to explain how different groups of plants will grow on a site because of the varying amounts of an environmental input of which their genesis and growth are optimally suited. Succession naturally occurs following landscape changing events such as volcanoes, earthquakes, wildfires and even strong wind storms. The effects of these events can alter the site. Minor events with relative high frequency occurrence such as wind and fire most often affect the level of sunlight on the surface of the forest soil.  Since the trees are blown down and/or the leaves are burned, more sunlight is able to reach the surface of the soil.  This encourages plants that are best suited to full sunlight to generate.  Often called pioneer species, they grow in abundance in these newly changed sites while vegetation that is shade-tolerant (often called late seral species) best generate under partial shade to varying degrees, occupying niches made for them as the pioneer species mature and their leaves decrease the sunlight on the soil surface.  Eventually, full canopies are created reducing the light enough to form a “climax” plant community. This forest which will occupy the site until another disturbance occurs to start the process anew.

Succession isn’t limited to forests. Some sites are incapable of the support of forests and may be for thousands of years. Perhaps the climax vegetation family are grasses, or perhaps lichens. Disturbances with greater impact (typically with a lesser occurrence) may change once great climax forests into solid rock with a potential slow process taking thousands of years for lichens to break apart the rocks, grasses to grow between the cracks, eventually decomposing and recomposing soils that support what we admire as great forests.

If anything is known about nature, it’s that being dynamic is a rule, not an exception.

Species characteristics:

Different species prefer different growing conditions:  One species may grow better with large amounts of sunlight and a drier soil.  Another species may grow better with shaded conditions and a moist soil.  Some species only grow well when there are high amounts of Calcium in the soil, others will only grow where the soil is extremely acidic.  This is an important concept to understand while trying to manage for the optimum growth of a particular species or species group on a given site.  If you consider planting a tree on your property, consider first if you have a site that will be able to support that trees growth.

All of us have a responsibility to take care of our forests as well as all of our diverse landscapes.  In the U.S., that responsibility is granted to private citizens, as well as other private and public entities.  The decisions humans make toward nature affect all people in many ways, large and small. We must be conservative in our use and management of resources as our ability to thrive and even survive ultimately depends on it.

The forests purify the air and water.  They create gasses that produce the air that we breath, and uptake the carbon dioxide that we emit naturally or artificially.  Forests modify the climate and produce wood and many other substances that we can create useful products to sustain and enjoy our everyday lives.  Forests give us food and medicine.  The majority of ingredients of modern medicine are still either derived directly from plants, or are synthetic compounds based on chemicals derived from plants. Forests give us room to roam and places to play, relax, recreate, work and live. Us means all of us, creatures and humans alike.  The forests are important to all life on Earth.

With so many large concentrations of people in small places today, and those concentrations continuing to expand, the forests that remain are becoming more and more important every day.

I sincerely hope you learned something from this page, enjoyed what you learned and (hopefully) are able to apply these concepts in a practical manner in some aspect of your life.  Please share this page with others that you think may benefit from this knowledge, and perhaps individually and collectively, we can all maintain this planet as a great place to live!

 Best regards!

Your host, Geoff Kegerreis

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