Will My Forest Recover from Winter Weather Damage
Posted: December 1, 2009
1 , 2009- For Immediate Release
Contact: Allyson Muth, Phone: 814-865-3208, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Will My Forest Recover from Winter Weather Damage
Written by Jim Finley, Phone: 814-863-0402, email@example.com
The snowfall in mid-October did some major damage across central Pennsylvania. Fall snow and ice storms are especially damaging because the leaves on many trees have not yet fallen, and the remaining leaves provided additional surfaces that hold snow, freezing rain, and ice. Even when the leaves are gone, heavy, wet snows that accumulate on tree limbs can cause breakage and loss.
Faced with toppled trees, split trunks, and damaged limbs, the urge is to do something -- to salvage the damaged trees. Do not act too quickly. Safety is a principal concern. Obviously the storms have left behind many hazards, such as hanging limbs and severely damaged branches. Working in the forest under these conditions is dangerous. Mark dangerous trees and leave working around them to the experts.
Due to greater exposure to the weather, trees near roads or other open areas often suffer more damage than trees in the interior of the forest, so the actual damage may look worse from a trail or road than it actually is. A good way to judge whether a tree will survive storm damage is to look at the upper branches. If less than 50 percent of the crown is damaged, the tree has a good chance of survival; however, depending on the extent of the damage, the tree's growth may slow down while it recovers. If between 50 percent and 75 percent of the crown is damaged, the tree may survive; however, its wounds may provide entryways for damaging insects and diseases, especially if large tops or large lower branches break or if extensive areas of bark tear. If more than 75 percent of the crown is damaged, the tree has a low chance of survival.
What to do first? Start by doing a careful evaluation of the extent of damage. Consider paying a trusted resource professional to visit the site. Salvage might be one option; however, when working with hardwood or broadleaf trees it is often advisable to wait and see how they respond the next summer. Trees have an amazing ability to respond to this type of injury.
Homeowners can consult trained arborists who can evaluate damage, remove dangerous trees and branches, and correctly prune trees to help them survive. Private forest landowners can consult natural resource professionals to assess damage to their woodland, mitigate dangerous conditions, and recommend appropriate management practices.
Many of our hardwood forests have experienced ice and heavy snows before. Often times there is evidence by forks in trees across the stand that are all at about the same height in the canopy. Sometimes the forked trunk will split again somewhat higher. This is especially evident on the Allegheny Plateau where cherry stands exhibit ice damage from more than 50 years ago.
The point is that hardwood trees have mechanisms for responding to ice injury. Dormant buds beneath the bark will typically sprout, forming new branches and leaves. So, if you have a hardwood forests with ice- or snow-damaged crowns. Wait and watch, if we have a good growing summer like last year, your trees may respond well.
Standing trees with only partial ice- or snow-damaged crowns will retain their value long enough to more carefully plan your response. The biggest loss could be to stain that eventually will enter the wounds. When trees are more severely damaged, having lost their crowns or have broken or split trunks, or were uprooted, a salvage operation may be the right response. Don't rush in though. Hasty decisions, without proper road planning, can lead to site damage as well as residual tree damage. Wait and plan the harvest when conditions are better for logging in late summer.
Softwoods, like pine and hemlock, unfortunately do not have the same adaptations as hardwoods. Severely damaged softwoods may show signs of insect damage and staining in the wood shortly after this winter's ice. They can withstand some injury and have mechanisms for containing some of the negative impacts. However, if the damage is heavy, seek professional input and consider recovering some of these trees this summer.
Most importantly, use caution when entering and working in ice-damaged stands, even into the summer months. Take advantage of the expertise of natural resources professionals especially when thinking about helping your stands recover from natural disaster. The forests are an important resource to Pennsylvanians; however their wise care and use is dependent on you. Take care.
The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management for private landowners. For a list of free publications, call 1-800-235-WISE (toll-free), send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org , or write to: Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 320 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in partnership with the Penn State's Forest Resources Extension, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.
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