Small Woodlot Management

If your property has woods, learning to manage the ecosystem properly will lead to increased health and diversity.

| February/March 1995

Many people hesitate to do anything to their woods, either due to a lack of time or knowledge, or because they fear tampering with a delicate ecosystem and its wildlife. Many make the assumption that all human intervention in the environment is detrimental. It isn't. Careless clear-cutting and other drastic methods notwithstanding, there's much you can do to add both vigor and productivity to your woodland. But any kind of woodland management is a trade-off. Anything you do to your woods, even leaving it alone, will be beneficial to some wildlife and detrimental to others. As a steward of your woodland, you have to decide which plants and animals you wish to favor and manage for them.

Thoughtfully planned, proper management of your woodland can improve aesthetics, increase income, and improve both game and nongame wildlife potential.

Nature's Timber Management

Let's start with the basics. To efficiently manage our woodlots, we must understand the methods used by nature throughout the ages to shape them.

Forests usually begin as brush and sun-loving tree seedlings that take over grasslands or recently disturbed sites. As these first seedling trees grow and mature, they shade the ground and effectively shade out sun-loving plants below them, including their own seedlings. Shade tolerant species will then grow up through these and gradually take over. Since these tree species can reproduce in shade, they can continue to grow until the next catastrophic disturbance allows sunlight to reach the forest floor, causing the process to start again.

This progression of dominant tree species is known as succession. Six stages of succession are noted:

1. Grass and forbs (forbs are broad-leaved nonwoody plants)
2. Herb, shrub, and seedling stage.
3. Young forest.
4. Mature forest.
5. Subclimax old-growth forest.
6. Climax old-growth forest.

12/6/2007 9:09:28 PM

I'm new at this, have 5 wooded acres in the country now. It looks like most of my trees would make great utility poles, some kind of Oak, straight as an arrow and 60-80 feet tall. I wouldn't cut living ones but have a couple dead ones. Is there any market for these in small quantities? I live in rural Chester county, Pa.

Sarah Hill
12/6/2007 9:00:35 AM

Good article. Comprehensive, unbiased, informative, accessible typos - from the top Forests usually begin as brush and sun-loving tree seedlings that take over grasslands or recently disturbed "sights". Should be "sites" "The" are shade intolerant and cannot reproduce even in their own shade. Should be "they" There is some market-sized "timbe" Should be "timber"

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