Tree growth can be improved by thinning forest stands

Sunlight is a vital component for all plant growth and development, in a fully or overstocked forest, trees struggling for space and light are less vigorous and slower growing then those with sufficient access to light. Proper thinning can improve stand qu

Photons or light energy are an important component of the photosynthetic process plants use to develop and grow. In a forest setting, trees compete and at times struggle to make the most of the available light as it filters through the canopy. Thinning out overstocked and poor quality trees can help create growing space to enhance the remaining trees growth and development, but one must undertake some care in making these removal decisions.

Too often landowners will focus on the base or lower portion of the trees when making removal decisions, taking out the smaller or poorer looking stems without considering their place in the canopy. Although removal of these poorer quality trees probably doesn’t hurt the stand, if they are not as tall as the trees left remaining, their removal is going to have a minimal impact on the overall growth. To be successful in thinning a stand to improve growing conditions for the residual trees, one needs to look up and insure growing space in the canopy is being created when deciding which stems to remove.

Openings that are too large can also have a negative impact on stand development and value as too much light can encourage unwanted branching along the stems and trunks of the remaining trees lowering their potential commercial value. Larger than necessary openings can also lead to establishment of unwanted or undesirable species in the understory so care must be taken to insure the proper amount of canopy space is being provided.

There are a lot of variables that need to be taken into consideration when deciding which and how many trees to thin from a stand for desirable results. Age of the trees, length of time to next thinning or harvest, overall stand health, kinds of species present, regeneration and wildlife considerations all are on the list of items that come into play when making thinning decisions. Although most forest owners have reasonable goals for managing their woodlots, understanding all the options and possible impacts can be challenging.

Consider contacting a resource professional or consulting forester if there is a need in accessing your woodlot or forest ownership goals. By taking your goals into consideration, they have the knowledge and resources to insure the best practices are being put in place to help insure success in managing forested ownerships.

Your local county conservation district or MSU Extension office may have someone available for general assistance. Local consulting foresters are usually listed in the phone book or a state wide listing, searchable by county, can be viewed on the atMSU’s consulting foresters directory.

Related Events

Related Articles

Related Resources