MANAGEMENT OPTIONS FOR UPLAND CONIFERS
Article #110, August 2006
By Bill Cook
Forest management practices vary considerably across forest types, site conditions, market availability, and many other factors. There simply is not any single way or best way to manage all forests, or even a particular kind of forest. While nature is a dynamic system that defies simple categorization, there remains a body of knowledge and experience that can be very effectively applied.
White pine and eastern hemlock are the tree species most often considered when foresters and wildlife biologists talk about "upland conifers." These species often occur in association with other forest types, mostly northern hardwoods, but can also form their own forest types.
Both species were once more common than they are today. Both have served valuable utilitarian roles in the history of the Lake States. Both have "recovery" or "restoration" challenges as a result of the historical logging and massive wildfire era common to the region.
pine and hemlock no longer have high demand from commodity markets. However,
they provide critical habitat components for many species of wildlife, especially
a suite of popular songbirds. They also have high visual and aesthetic appeal;
a romance with the past. After all, white pine is Michigan's state tree.
these upland conifers frequent our forests less than in the recent past, they
remain major forest components. Both are among the most common tree species
in Michigan, particularly in the Upper Peninsula. In fact, the U.P. has some
of the largest hemlock reserves in North America.
"upland conifer restoration" has growing popularity among public agencies
and many private forest owners. A good portion of our northern hardwood forest
lacks what some ecologists regard as historical levels of upland conifers.
how does a forest owner increase the upland conifer component of a forest?
the most part, nature will take its course. Active forest management, especially
timber harvest, will accelerate the natural tendency of upland conifer regeneration.
Across parts of Michigan, this successional process is taking place, and has
been for decades.
upland conifers will regenerate best under canopies opened up by timber harvest
(or natural processes mimicked by timber harvest) and where mineral soil has
been exposed. Astute observers will see seedlings and saplings most common along
roads and skid trails. Recent research indicates that certain micro-topographical
features (e.g. old logs and "tip-ups" from fallen trees) provide adequate
sites in less disturbed places.
where seed sources are not available, human beings can plant trees in the understory.
Partial sunlight and well-drained, reasonably fertile, soils provide the best
sites. These young trees will grow best without competing vegetation.
from the expense and labor involved with planting, there are several challenges
to successfully regenerating or restoring upland conifers in northern hardwood
pine is susceptible to blister rust, an exotic disease that has more impact
in shadier and moister conditions, such as understories. More open-grown white
pine are susceptible to our native tip weevils, which kill the leader of the
tree, often rendering a mis-shapened white pine "bush."
across much of eastern North America has succumbed to an exotic insect called
a woolly adelgid. To date, the adelgid has not gained a foothold in Michigan.
The thought of this insect in our large hemlock reserves is disturbing.
far the leading challenge to these young upland conifers is browsing by deer,
and to a lesser degree by rabbits and hares. In areas where browsing pressure
is moderate to high, regeneration of white pine and hemlock is next to impossible.
So, before embarking on a restoration effort, it would be worthwhile to consider
local browsing pressure.
pine and hemlock are beautiful trees. They have played a key role in human settlement
and provide important wildlife habitat. Where possible, increasing their presence
in upland forest types is a worthy objective. Managing for these species requires
an assessment of several related factors. As always, working with a professional
forester is recommended.
- 30 -
Bill Cook is an MSU Extension forester providing educational programming for the entire Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres. He can be reached at email@example.com or 906-786-1575.
by Bill Cook, Forester/Biologist, Michigan State University Extension, 6005
J Road, Escanaba, MI 49829
906-786-1575 (voice), 906-786-9370 (fax), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
of these articles is encouraged. Please notify Bill Cook.
By-line should read "Bill Cook, MSU Extension" Please use the article trailer whenever possible.
Michigan State University is an affirmative action equal opportunity institution. The U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital status or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)
This website is maintained by Bill Cook, Michigan State University Extension Forest in the Upper Peninsula. Comments, questions, and suggestions are gratefully accepted.
Last update of this page was 9 August, 2006
This site is hosted by School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University.