Managing Appalachian Hardwood Stands Using Four Management Practices: 60-Year Results

by

Thomas M Schuler, Melissa Thomas-Van Gundy, Janice Wiedenebeck, and John Brown

Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, tschuler@fs.fed.us or 304-478-2000, ex. 110

Abstract – A long-term forest management case study on the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia referred to as the Cutting Practice Level study is evaluated after 60 years. Treatments include a commercial clearcut, a 15.5 inch diameter-limit, two variations of single-tree selection, and an unmanaged reference area. We examine productivity, species composition and diversity, structure, harvested tree quality, and revenues generated related to each treatment since establishment. The diameter-limit treatment resulted in greatest net production while the reference area resulted in the least. All types of partial harvesting resulted in greater productivity than either the commercial clearcut or the reference area. Species composition was most stable in the reference area and the most dynamic in the two single-tree selection treatments but all of the treatments are becoming less diverse and more shade-tolerant. Initially, all size-class distributions were unimodal and reflective of even-aged stands. In 2008, the single-tree selection treatments were both characterized by a reverse-J distribution more typical of uneven-aged stands. The net present value for each treatment in 2008, the time of the last management intervention, ranged from $8,000/ac for reference area to over $44,000/acre for diameter-limit treatment using the inflation adjusted market rate of return. This study provides insights into long-term forest stand dynamics, subjected to perturbations and stressors, planned and unplanned. We discuss how many of the assumptions about forest stand dynamics and management made when this study was initiated have been either modified or rejected entirely.