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Legacy
Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association
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"For in the true nature
of things, if we rightly
consider, every green
tree is far more glorious
than if it were made of
gold and silver."
-- Martin Luther
 
Welcome, farmers! 

Starting this month, NSWOOA will be sending its digital newsletter, Legacy, to members and friends of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture.

 

Like NSWOOA, the Federation is deeply concerned about ensuring

a high quality of life and sustainable use of natural resources in rural Nova Scotia. The NSFA describes its main goal as "building farm businesses that are financially viable, ecologically sound and socially responsible."

 

The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture brings together more than 2,400 businesses that account for more than 90% of all agricultural production in the province. Collectively, NSFA members own at least 10 percent -- and perhaps as much as 25 percent -- of the small private forestland in Nova Scotia.

 

Farmers, like forest landowners and small contractors, know that woodlots are under-performing assets. Poor markets, government policies and past management decisions have combined to limit the returns from forest ownership and made it difficult to exercise good stewardship. Together, we will be exploring ways to increase the profitability of actively managed forests while ensuring that all of the values of our woodlands -- ecological, social, and economic -- are preserved for future generations.

 

Visit us on Facebook
If you're interested in the latest news about forestry, visit the association's Facebook page. You'll find stories ranging from regulatory changes and political developments to the latest in Canadian and international silvicultural research.

Check it out at:
https://www.facebook.com/NSWOOA
  
Death in the forest
 
By Joe Rankin
Forests for Maine's Future
  
Most of us have, at one time or another, compared a forest of lofty trees to a cathedral. But that's an illusion, says Kevin Smith, a forest pathologist and researcher at the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station in New Hampshire.

"It's very competitive. And it's definitely life and death," Smith said.
  
There are, of course, very long-lived trees. Bristlecone pines, for instance, are believed to be the oldest living things, at just under 5,000 years. But, eventually, they too will die. 
  
End game    
  
 "It's difficult, if not impossible, to find a tree that has not been wounded in some way," said William Ostrofsky, forest pathologist with the Maine Forest Service. "In fact, if you want to extrapolate further, all trees have branches and all trees shed branches naturally. And you can consider that as a wound too, because it's an avenue of dead material that goes to the core of the tree ... So it's unavoidable that trees are going to become wounded, but their strategy is that with each year with that new annual ring they're building new material all the time and so they can keep ahead of a lot of these wounds, sometimes for decades."

A tree walls off an injury and works to stop the spread of decay and infection with chemicals, then grows around it, confining the damage. It's called compartmentalization.
  
Trees vary in how good they are at containing isolating wounds and containing rot. Smith notes that osage orange and black locust "invest a lot in those chemicals to resist decay." But, he notes again, "part of the beauty of nature is that eventually some fungus or a group of fungi will be able to break it down."
  
Ostrofsky adds that some trees, like white birch and aspen, are especially poor compartmentalizers. Generally those are the trees that are the first to grow on disturbed land, those with "live fast, die young" embedded in their genetic code. Others, especially shade-tolerant species like sugar maple, are much better at containing decay.
  
"They put a lot of their life's energy into protection mechanisms and barrier zones and chemicals that limit the spread of decay," said Ostrofsky. "That's why we can tap sugar maples for syrup, because the tree is so well adapted to confining tree decay."

When there's an injury -- a wind-broken branch, bear claw scratches on a trunk, a top pruned back by a utility worker, or skin scraped off a trunk by a logger, the tree's enemies mobilize. The wood is first invaded by non-decay organisms, bacteria and fungi that can use the easily accessed exposed sugars, said Ostrofsky.

"When they get done, other fungi begin to move in because all the material that is left tends to be bound tightly in the cell wall and in order to get it those carbohydrates the fungi need to have special enzymes to do that. And it's the wood decay fungi that have those enzymes. The wood decay fungi don't compete very well, but they don't have to. They hold the trump card," he added.

As decay proceeds, it can involve many types of organisms.
  
"Usually there are several wood decay fungi and a whole host of little critters and big critters. Woodpeckers, other birds, other animals. And at the same time, or even prior, insects boring holes and clearing things out. That community of organisms are attracted to decaying wood," said Smith.

Even if the tree does manage to compartmentalize the damage and initial decay, there are always other injuries to come. As the tree ages, it becomes harder to fight the battle.

"Eventually the trees reach a point where they don't have the living mass to care for, to monitor, to protect all the tissues they're responsible for, so to speak. So they begin to decline because they just don't have the energy to take care of it," Ostrofsky explains.

Some trees go from injury to humus in a few years: gray birch or aspen, for instance. For others, decay and decline can encompass many decades. An old maple can spend 60 or 80 years in decline -- hollowing out, losing branches, its top popping off, shedding bark, then flaking off rotting sapwood.
   
But even in that it is fulfilling an important role, providing homes for creatures as varied as raccoons and birds, centipedes and salamanders. It is a veritable ecosystem in itself.

"A dead standing snag, or dead stems on the ground, well, we can call them dead stems, but in terms of the weight of living stuff

Ghost tree

there's more in the dead stuff than in the living stuff if you count all the fungi, bacteria and insects and birds and what else. There's more life associated with it than when it was a sound healthy living tree," said Smith.

No one has yet quantified how much of this decaying matter should be retained in a forest during a logging operation, say, to ensure a healthy future forest, but researchers, including Smith's group at the NRS, are working on it.
  
"Decaying trees are an important part of the ecology," Smith said. "I do understand the value of sound clear wood for wood products. Certainly we need to be producing that and growing trees to optimize that. But there is a definite ecological benefit in maintaining forests as communities, where there is wood production, but also the cycling of elements and energy which comes from having decaying snags and wood on the ground."
  
Photos courtesy of The Rankin File.
  
January 2013
 
Part 1
Regenerating forests

 

By Bob Bancroft

 

Most regenerating forests on Nova Scotia land with a forestry or farming history have fewer tree species and habitats compared to what existed on the site before the clearing began. Forests growing back on open ground tend to be dominated by "disturbance" tree species, which are well suited to grow in direct sunlight and on wind-dried soils.

 

It can take hundreds of years for forests and soils to completely recover from past practices. Climate change, exotic bugs and diseases, acid rain and depleted soils may cause serious challenges and changes in tree and ground cover species composition, delaying the return to forest stability on many sites.

 

Forest management plans for landowners usually divide woodland properties on a "stand" basis using a map and specific recommended treatments over time for each area. Such plans are valuable, but they can be upended abruptly by events like a spruce beetle infestation.

 

I've written those management plans, but opted for a different approach on our 56 acres at Pomquet.  Bob Bancroft

 

Thirty-eight years ago, that woodland was composed of disturbance species with scattered leftovers from the original forest -- like a hemlock left to shade the cattle.

 

Unlike Scotland, much cleared ground in Nova Scotia can still be recolonized by forests very thickly and quickly. To speed up nature's recovery path, I identified and mapped remnants like sugar maple, white pine, red spruce, red maple, yellow birch, white and black ash.

 

These would be important seed sources to kick-start a more diverse forest. My wider goal was to bring back suitable tree and ground cover species, thereby restoring more elements of richness to the new forest. This process promises a more stable ecosystem in the future with more wildlife habitats.

   

Trees have two sources of energy -- their leaves need sunlight to function like solar panels, while root systems need adequate space to acquire soil nutrients. The 30-year-old forest I adopted here had grown up over pasture. It required extensive thinning to lessen the competition between adjacent trees. Nature could have accomplished this over decades, but I didn't want to wait.

  

My thinning offered any original, long-lived tree species an immediate helping hand. I also favoured the most wildlife-useful disturbance trees on sites with no original species. For example, height is an important factor for canopy-users like woodland birds, so I left tall poplars. Trees that offer seeds or nuts for wildlife were favored by the thinning, which has transpired over four decades. Poor trees like multi-stemmed red maples with good potential to have holes or cavities for wildlife were left as well.

 

There was no dead wood in the forest, and the soil had been depleted, so I left thinned trees on the ground. Cutting branches off felled trees -- so trunks lay directly on the ground -- is a way to hasten rot. Nature doesn't waste. Recycled nutrients from dead trees soon nourish the new forest, creating salamander habitat in the process.

 

In the next issue, I will describe how to use the disturbance forest canopy, seed trees and planting as an ecosystem restorative approach.

 

It's time to renew memberships

This is will be a year of unprecendented growth and success at NSWOOA. We worked hard in 2012 to put the association on a path toward greater visibility, more members and a wider offering of services. This newsletter is one result, and you'll see many more improvements in the coming year. 

Memberships in NSWOOA run from 1 January through 31 December. Are you ready to renew? Do you know someone else who wants to learn more about Nova Scotia's forests?

 

You'll find a membership application here.


 

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You can forward this newsletter to a friend, neighbor or colleague by clicking on the link below.
  
  

Province misses point

about restoration

 

By Matt Miller

 

In its new Natural Resources Strategy released in 2011, the government of Nova Scotia promised to reduce clearcutting to no more than 50 percent of all harvests by 2016. The first step was to define what was meant by a clearcut.

 

On 15 Aug. 2012, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released its long-awaited definition. On Page 6 of the accompanying FAQ document, DNR introduces Nova Scotians to its notion of "restorative" harvests -- in which the department believes that middle- to late-succession vegetation types would be restored using methods such as seed tree or shelterwoods.

 

Under this framework, a "restorative" harvest is one that results in regeneration of intermediate to tolerant, long-lived Acadian Forest species suited to a particular site. Acceptable species include yellow birch, red oak, sugar maple, white spruce, red spruce, eastern hemlock and white pine.

 

To qualify, the regeneration must be greater than 30 cm in height, free to grow, and achieve a stocking threshold of at least 70% of the stand.

 

Readers might ask themselves, "How can DNR reduce our natural Acadian Forest to 30 cm in height and claim to be restoring middle- to late-succession communities?" In light of the nature of our Acadian Forest and the natural processes of succession, it is a valid question.

 

The "restorative" harvest framework encourages managers and landowners to focus on regenerating long-lived, shade-tolerant and site-appropriate species. One exception that is cause for concern is the inclusion of white spruce as an acceptable species. While details of this framework remain to be worked out through silviculture guides for specific forest ecosystems, this could pave the way for the maintainance of old-field white spruce stands -- an entirely man-made ecosystem -- under the guise of natural forest restoration.

 

 30 cm forest

Where DNR's notion of restoration silviculture really misses the mark is on forest structure and the claim that a forest which is 30 cm tall is similar in nature to a late-succession community.

  

Many of the vegetation types that are composed of the species listed above (with the exception of white spruce) form multi-aged, multi-layered stands when they reach the late succession stage of development. Because of the dynamics of the tree species involved, these stands can form steady-state mosaics that maintain this uneven-aged structure over long periods of time, renewing themselves in small patches following the death of individuals or small groups of trees.

  

Emulating this disturbance pattern requires the use of uneven-aged management techniques, not the even-aged methods of seed tree and shelterwood harvesting. Any forest management that is intended to create, enhance or maintain middle- or late-successional communities should not ultimately produce an early successional stand, regardless of the species composition.

 

DNR has done some laudable work in establishing the Ecosystem Classification System and Forest Ecosystem Classification framework to help move forest management to an ecosystem-based model, and away from the industrial, clearcut-spray-plant model of the past. But the real guts of this shift will be the iout through silviculture guides for specific forest ecosystems, this could pave the way for the maintainance of old-field white spruce stands -- an entirely man-made ecosystem -- under the guise of natural forest restoration.

 

Where DNR's notion of restoration silviculture really misses the mark is on forest structure and the claim that a forest which is 30 cm tall is similar in nature to a late-succession community.

  

Many of the vegetation types that are composed of the species listed above (with the exception of white spruce) form multi-aged, multi-layered stands when they reach the late succession stage of development. Because of the dynamics of the tree species involved, these stands can form steady-state mosaics that maintain this uneven-aged structure over long periods of time, renewing themselves in small patches following the death of individuals or small groups of trees.

  

Emulating this disturbance pattern requires the use of uneven-aged management techniques, not the even-aged methods of seed tree and shelterwood harvesting. Any forest management that is intended to create, enhance or maintain middle- or late-successional communities should not ultimately produce an early successional stand, regardless of the species composition.

 

DNR has done some laudable work in establishing the Ecosystem Classification System and Forest Ecosystem Classification framework to help move forest management to an ecosystem-based model, and away from the industrial, clearcut-spray-plant model of the past.

But the real guts of this shift will be n the above-mentioned silviculture guides, which will spell out what treatments will be matched to specific vegetation types.

 

If the "restorative" harvest framework is any indication, Nova Scotians who hoped that the Natural Resources Strategy would produce meaningful improvements in forest management will be disappointed in the end result.

 

NSWOOA| PO Box 823, Truro, NS B2N 5G6 | http://www.nswooa.ca
Truly sustainable forest management means that all values of our woodlands
-- ecological, social, cultural and economic -- are preserved for future generations.

Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.