Forestry & Woodland Management
London Tree Surgeons forestry and woodland management aims to promote best practice for biodiversity in all our projects.
What Forestry Is and What It Does
Although Forestry is not a new idea but, as a science and an art, has been applied for nearly two thousand years, there are many persons who still need an explanation of its aims and principles.
Forestry deals with the establishment, protection and utilization of forests.
By establishment, is meant the planting of new forests and the cutting of mature forests, in such a way as to encourage a natural growth of new trees without artificial planting or seeding. The planting may consist of sowing seed, or of setting out young trees. The establishment of a forest by cutting may consist of the removal of all mature trees and dependence upon the remaining stumps to reproduce the forest from sprouts, or it may consist of the removal of only a portion of the mature trees, thus giving the young seedlings on the ground room in which to grow.
By protection, is meant the safeguarding of the forest from fire, wind, insects, disease and injury for which man is directly responsible. Here, the forester also prevents injury to the trees from the grazing and browsing of sheep and goats, and keeps his forest so well stocked that no wind can uproot the trees nor can the sun dry up the moist forest soil.
By utilization, is meant the conservative and intelligent harvesting of the forest, with the aim of obtaining the greatest amount of product from a given area, with the least waste, in the quickest time, and without the slightest deterioration of the forest as a whole. The forester cuts his mature trees, only, and generally leaves a sufficient number on the ground to preserve the forest soil and to cast seed for the production of a new crop. In this way, he secures an annual output without hurting the forest itself. He studies the properties and values of the different woods and places them where they will be most useful. He lays down principles for so harvesting the timber and the by-products of the forest that there will be the least waste and injury to the trees which remain standing. He utilizes the forest, but does not cut enough to interfere with the neighbouring water-sheds, which the forests protect.
Forestry, therefore, deals with a vast and varied mass of information, comprising all the known facts relating to the life of a forest. It does not deal with the individual tree and its planting and care,—that would be arboriculture. Nor does it consider the grouping of trees for aesthetic effect,—that would be landscape gardening. It concerns itself with the forest as a community of trees and with the utilization of the forest on an economic basis.
Each one of these activities in Forestry is a study in itself and involves considerable detail, of which the reader may obtain a general knowledge in the following pages. For a more complete discussion, the reader is referred to any of the standard books on Forestry.
The life and nature of a forest: When we think of a forest we are apt to think of a large number of individual trees having no special relationship to each other. Closer observation, however, will reveal that the forest consists of a distinct group of trees, sufficiently dense to form an unbroken canopy of tops, and that, where trees grow so closely together, they become very interdependent. It is this interdependence that makes the forest different from a mere group of trees in a park or on a lawn. In this composite character, the forest enriches its own soil from year to year, changes the climate within its own bounds, controls the streams along its borders and supports a multitude of animals and plants peculiar to itself. This communal relationship in the life history of the forest furnishes a most interesting story of struggle and mutual aid. Different trees have different requirements with regard to water, food and light. Some need more water and food than others, some will not endure much shade, and others will grow in the deepest shade. In the open, a tree, if once established, can meet its needs quite readily and, though it has to ward off a number of enemies, insects, disease and windstorm—its struggle for existence is comparatively easy. In the forest, the conditions are different. Here, the tree-enemies have to be battled with, just as in the open, and in addition, instead of there being only a few trees on a plot of ground, there are thousands growing on the same area, all demanding the same things out of a limited supply. The struggle for existence, therefore, becomes keen, many falling behind and but few surviving.
Forests prevent soil erosion and floods: Forests help to regulate the flow of streams and prevent floods. Most streams are bordered by vast tracts of forest growths. The rain that falls on these forest areas is absorbed and held by the forest soil, which is permeated with decayed leaves, decayed wood and root fibres. The forest floor is, moreover, covered with a heavy undergrowth and thus behaves like a sponge, absorbing the water that falls upon it and then permitting it to ooze out gradually to the valleys and rivers below. A forest soil will retain one-half of its own quantity of water; i.e., for every foot in depth of soil there can be six inches of water and, when thus saturated, the soil will act as a vast, underground reservoir from which the springs and streams are supplied. Cut the forest down and the land becomes such a desert as is shown in. The soil, leaves, branches and fallen trees dry to dust, are carried off by the wind and, with the fall of rain, the soil begins to wash away and gullies, such as are shown in are formed. Streams generally have their origins in mountain slopes and there, too, the forests, impeding the sudden run off of the water which is not immediately absorbed, prevent soil erosion.
How forests are harvested:
Forestry and forest preservation require that a forest should be cut and not merely held untouched. But it also demands that the cutting shall be done on scientific principles, and that only as much timber shall be removed in a given time as the forest can produce in a corresponding period. After the cutting, the forest must be left in a condition to produce another crop of timber within a reasonable time. These fundamental requirements represent the difference between conservative lumbering and ordinary lumbering. Besides insuring a future supply of timber, conservative lumbering, or lumbering on forestry principles, also tends to preserve the forest floor and the young trees growing on it, and to prevent injury to the remaining trees through fire, insects and disease. It provides for a working plan by which the kind, number and location of the trees to be cut are specified, the height of the stumps is stipulated and the utilization of the wood and by-products is regulated.
Conservative lumbering provides that the trees shall be cut as near to the ground as possible and that they shall be felled with the least damage to the young trees growing near by. The branches of the trees, after they have been felled, must be cut and piled in heaps, to prevent fire. When the trunks, sawed into logs, are dragged through the woods, care is taken not to break down the young trees or to injure the bark of standing trees.
Forestry and woodland management playlist. Best practice in woodland management increase biodiversity.
Woodland management – Care of Woodland
Almost every farm, large private estate or park has a wooded area for the purpose of supplying fuel or for enhancing the landscape effect of the place. In most instances these wooded areas are entirely neglected or are so improperly cared for as to cause injury rather than good. In but very few cases is provision made for a future growth of trees after the present stock has gone. Proper attention will increase and perpetuate a crop of good trees just as it will any other crop on the farm, while the attractiveness of the place may be greatly enhanced through the intelligent planting and care of trees.
How to judge the conditions: A close examination of the wooded area may reveal some or all of the following unfavourable conditions:
The trees may be so crowded that none can grow well. A few may have grown to large size but the rest usually are decrepit, and overtopped by the larger trees. They are, therefore, unable, for the want of light and space, to develop into good trees.
There may also be dead and dying trees, trees infested with injurious insects and fungi and having any number of decayed branches. The trees may be growing so far apart that their trunks will be covered with suckers as far down as the ground, or there may be large, open gaps with no trees at all. Here the sun, striking with full force, may be drying up the soil and preventing the decomposition of the leaves. Grass soon starts to grow in these open spaces and the whole character of the woodland changes.
Where any of these conditions exist, the woodland requires immediate attention. Otherwise, as time goes on, it deteriorates more and more, the struggle for space among the crowded and suppressed trees becomes more keen, the insects in the dying trees multiply and disease spreads from tree to tree. Under such conditions, the soil deteriorates and the older trees begin to suffer.
The attention required for the proper care of woodland may be summed up under the four general headings of soil preservation, planting, cutting, and protection.
Improvement by soil preservation: The soil in a wooded area can best be preserved and kept rich by doing two things; by retaining the fallen leaves on the ground and by keeping the ground well covered with a heavy growth of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. The fallen leaves decompose, mix with the soil and form a dark-coloured material known as humus. The humus supplies the tree with a considerable portion of its food and helps to absorb and retain the moisture in the soil upon which the tree is greatly dependent. A heavy growth of trees and shrubs has a similar effect by serving to retain the moisture in the soil.
Improvement by planting:
The planting of new trees is a necessity on almost any wooded area. For even where the existing trees are in good condition, they cannot last forever, and provision must be made for others to take their place after they are gone. The majority of the wooded areas in our parks and on private estates are not provided with a sufficient undergrowth of desirable trees to take the place of the older ones. Thus, also, the open gaps must be planted to prevent the soil from deteriorating.
Waste lands on farms which are unsuited for farm crops often offer areas on which trees may profitably be planted. These lands are sufficiently good in most cases to grow trees, thus affording a means of turning into value ground which would otherwise be worthless.
The usual idea that it costs a great deal to plant several thousand young trees is erroneous. An ordinary woodlot may be stocked with a well-selected number of young trees at a cost less than the price generally paid for a dozen good specimen trees for the front lawn. It is not necessary to under plant the woodlot with big trees. The existing big trees are there to give character to the forest and the new planting should be done principally as a future investment and as a means of perpetuating the life of the woodlot. Young trees are even more desirable for such planting than the older and more expensive ones. The young trees will adapt themselves to the local soil and climatic conditions more easily than the older ones. Their demand for food and moisture is more easily satisfied, and because of their small cost, one can even afford to lose a large percentage of them after planting.
The young plants should be two-year-old seedlings or three-year-old “transplants.”
Two-year-old seedlings are trees that have been grown from the seed in seed beds until they reach that age. They run from two to fifteen inches in height, depending upon the species.
Three-year-old “transplants” have been grown from the seed in seed beds and at the end of the first or second year have been taken up and transplanted into rows, where they grow a year or two longer. They are usually a little taller than the two-year-old seedlings, are much stockier and have a better root system. For this reason, three-year-old transplants are a little more desirable as stock for planting. They will withstand drought better than seedlings.
The best results from woodland planting are obtained with native-grown material. Such stock is stronger, hardier and better acclimated.
The trees may be purchased from reputable dealers, of whom there are many in this country. These dealers specialize in growing young trees and selling them at the low cost for larger quantities.
Great care must be taken to select the species most suitable for the particular soil, climatic and light conditions of the woodlot. The trees which are native to the locality and are found growing thriftily on the woodlot, are the ones that have proven their adaptability to the local conditions and should therefore be the principal species used for underplanting. A list from which to select the main stock would, therefore, vary with the locality. In London and the UK it would comprise the usual hardy trees like the oaks, the beech, the maples, the ash, the tulip tree, sycamore, sweet gum and locust among the deciduous trees; the white, Austrian, red, pitch and Scotch pines, the hemlock and the yew among the conifers.
With the main stock well selected, one may add a number of trees and shrubs that will give to the woodland scene a pleasing appearance at all seasons. The brilliant autumnal tints of the sassafras, pepperidge, blue beech, viburnum, juneberry and sumach are strikingly attractive. The flowering dogwood along the drives and paths will add a charm in June as well as in autumn and an occasional group of white birch will have the same effect if planted among groups of evergreens. Additional undergrowth of native woodland shrubs, will augment the naturalness of the scene and help to conserve the moisture in the soil.
Two or three years’ growth will raise these plants above all grass and low vegetation and ground cover will put the finishing touches to the forest scene.
As to methods of planting the little trees, the following suggestions may prove of value. As soon as the plants are received, they should be taken from the box and dipped in a thick puddle of water and loam. The roots must be thoroughly covered with the mud. Then the bundles into which the little trees are tied should be loosened and the trees placed in a trench dug on a slant. The dirt should be placed over the roots and the exposed parts of the plants covered with brush or burlap to keep away the rays of the sun.
When ready for planting, a few plants are dug up, set in a pail with thin mud at the bottom and carried to the place of planting. The most economical method of planting is for one man to make the holes with a mattock. These holes are made about a foot in diameter, by scraping off the sod with the mattock and then digging a little hole in the dirt underneath. A second man follows with a pail of plants and sets a single plant in this hole with his hands, making sure that the roots are straight and spread out on the bottom of the hole. The dirt should then be packed firmly around the plant and pressed down with the foot.
Improvement by cutting:
The removal of certain trees in a grove is often necessary to improve the quality of the better trees, increase their growth, make the place accessible, and enhance its beauty. Cutting in a wooded area should be confined to suppressed trees, dead and dying trees and trees badly infested with insects and disease. In case of farm woodlands, mature trees of market value may be cut, but in parks and on private estates these have a greater value when left standing. The cutting should leave a clean stand of well-selected specimens which will thrive under the favourable influence of more light and growing space. Considerable care is required to prevent injury to the young trees when the older specimens are cut and hauled out of the woods. The marking of the trees to be removed can best be done in summer when the dead and live trees can be distinguished with ease and when the requisite growing space for each tree can be judged better from the density of the crowns. The cutting, however, can be done most advantageously in winter.
Immediately after cutting all diseased and infested wood should be destroyed. The sound wood may be utilized for various purposes. The bigger logs may be sold to the local lumber dealers and the smaller material may be used for firewood. The remaining brush should be withdrawn from the woodlot to prevent fire during the dry summer months.
In marking trees for removal, a number of considerations are to be borne in mind besides the elimination of dead, diseased and suppressed trees. When the marker is working among crowding trees of equal height, he should save those that are most likely to grow into fine specimen trees and cut out all those that interfere with them. The selection must also favour trees which are best adapted to the local soil and climatic conditions and those which will add to the beauty of the place. In this respect the method of marking will be different from that used in commercial forestry, where the aim is to net the greatest profit from the timber. In pure forestry practice, one sees no value in such species as dogwood, ironwood, sumac and sassafras, and will therefore never allow those to grow up in abundance and crowd out other trees of a higher market value. But on private estates and in park woodlands where beauty is an important consideration, such species add wonderful colour and attractiveness to the forest scene, especially along the roads and paths, and should be favoured as much as the other hardier trees. One must not mark too severely in one spot or the soil will be dried out from exposure to sun and wind. When the gaps between the trees are too large, the trees will grow more slowly and the trunks will become covered with numerous shoots or suckers which deprive the crowns of their necessary food and cause them to “die back.” Where the trees are tall and slim or on short and steep hillsides, it is also important to be conservative in marking in order that you may not be exposed to the dangers of windfall. No hard-and-fast rule can be laid down as to what would constitute a conservative percentage of trees to cut down. This depends entirely on the local conditions and on the exposure of the woodlot. But in general it is not well to remove more than twenty per cent of the stand nor to repeat the cutting on the same spot oftener than once in five or six years. The first cutting will, of course, be the heaviest and all subsequent cuttings will become lighter and lighter until the woodlot is put in good growing condition. On private estates and parks, where beauty is the chief aim, the woodland should be kept as natural, informal and as thick as possible. Where the woodland is cut up by many paths and drives, density of vegetation will add to the impression of depth and distance.
Protection: This subject has already been discussed considerably in the previous study on Forestry, and here it becomes necessary merely to add a few suggestions with special reference to private and park woodlands.
Guarding woodlands from fire is the most important form of protection. Surface fires are very common on small woodland holdings and the damage done to the standing vegetation is generally underestimated. An ordinary ground or surface fire on a woodland area will burn up the leaf-litter and vegetable mould, upon which the trees depend so much for food and moisture, and will destroy the young seedlings on the ground. Where the fire is a little more severe, the older trees are badly wounded and weakened and the younger trees are frequently killed outright. Insects and disease find these trees an easy prey, and all related forest conditions commence to deteriorate.
Constant watchfulness and readiness to meet any emergency are the keynote of effective fire protection. It is also helpful to institute strict rules against dropping lighted matches or tobacco, or burning brush when the ground is very dry, or leaving smouldering wood without waiting to see that the fire is completely out. There should be many roads and foot-paths winding through the woodland in order that they may serve as checks or “fire lanes” in time of fire. These roads and paths should be kept free from brush and leaves and should be frequently patrolled. When made not too wide, unpretentious and in conformity with the natural surroundings, such drives and paths can become a very interesting feature of the place, winding through the woodland, exposing its charms and affording opportunity for pleasant driving and walking. The borders of the paths can be given special attention by placing the more beautiful native shrubs in prominent positions where they can lend increased attractiveness.
In case of fire, it should be possible to call for aid by telephone directly from the woodland and to find within easy reach the tools necessary to combat fire. It is also important to obtain the co-operation of one’s neighbours in protecting the adjoining woodlands, because the dangers from insects, disease and fire threatening one bit of woodland area are more or less dependent upon the conditions in the adjoining woodland.