Clearcutting, shelterwood, and selection systems are the three main types of timber harvesting practices. While each is unique and applies to certain forest types, they all share three characteristics: They provide wood fiber for thousands of everyday items. They create environmental conditions that encourage natural forest regeneration. They improve the future forest’s ecological, economic, and social values. A series of bulletins from Michigan State University Extension address management options for major Michigan forest-type groups.
Selection harvesting is possibly the most misunderstood and certainly the most complicated system. Forest health deteriorates as tree stands become overly dense. The quality and character of the forest are improved by removing the higher-s trees and leaving the trees with higher potential. The partially opened canopy provides sufficient light for individual tree health and vigor, as well as seedling growth. As the older trees die or are harvested, the younger trees eventually take their place. The “catch” with the selection system is the ability of tree seedlings to tolerate shade on the forest floor. Given the diversity of Michigan’s forest, it’s no sᴜʀᴘʀɪsᴇ that some tree species thrive in the shade while others do not.
Forest types that require full sunlight for seedlings or sprouts can benefit from clearcutting. The warmed ground benefits seeds and buds. The abundance of light results in excellent growth, some of the fastest we’ve ever seen. Full sunlight is required by species such as aspen, paper birch, and jack pine. The catch with clearcutting is appreciating how nature did it before there were people with chainsaws and harvest processors.
Clearcutting is a cost-effective and environmentally sound way to mitigate the negative effects of natural disasters while also meeting the ecological needs of these forest types. The shelterwood system falls between the visual extremes of clearcutting and selection management. The parent forest is harvested in phases, with each stage generating ideal environmental conditions for tree regeneration and then nurturing the regeneration to a point where the remaining parent forest may be harvested. Red oak and pine stands will often benefit from shelterwood harvesting.
Forest management and timber harvesting systems draw on a wealth of forest research and experience. Despite how such practices may appear to the casual observer, they are well-founded in the applied ecological sciences. All trees eventually die. Using some of them to meet our needs is a good thing. Each person in the United States consumes about 9-10 pounds of wood every day. Despite this, Michigan has massive amounts of forest growth, with some of the highest accumulation in the country. Forest-based industries provide markets for wood products, which expands forest management opportunities.
In the video below, you can see the World’s Modern Long Reach Excavator Machine in action – Heavy Equipment Cutting Big Tree Machine.
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