PA Forest inventory data are revealing
Posted: November 15, 2012
Take a look at this Research Note that summarizes latest Pennsylvania Forest Inventory data aka FIA. Although forest area is holding steady in the face of urbanization etc, we have serious problem in age class distribution. Most of our forests are in mature large diameter size classes and the trend is increasing.
Also, the report shows that Red Maple have twice as much volume as the next commonest tree species. This suggests our forests are lacking regeneration of other desirable species. These indicators do not bode well for forests about 20 years down the line when most of our mature forest will be harvested. What is causing this trend? Simply put – too much deer and poor harvesting practices lead to a lack of regeneration. You can add invasive species to that list. A confounding problem is that in many of the these large diameter forests, there is lots of low-use wood. that just sits there and doesn't allow for regeneration. That’s why we working on bioenergy – potentially providing a market for much of this low-use wood and helping get our forests back in shape. See an extension publication on the benefits of woody biomass. It comes down to markets, because if there is not market for low- use wood then are forests will continue to the high graded (cutting the best and leaving the rest).
Another interesting tidbit is that harvest removals did not change much since 2006. I would have expected to see a larger drop in harvest due to the recession and that forest industry production is down significantly. Any thoughts?