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Photo credit: Andy Bauer.
Photo credit: Andy Bauer.
Photo credit: OFRI.
Healthy, functioning forests are resilient against natural disturbances like insect pests, diseases, and fire.
In fact, these disturbances facilitate healthy biological processes such as decompositionDecomposition The process of organic matter breaking down into smaller parts., nutrient recycling, and creation of wildlife habitat. In a healthy forest, most trees can recover from a disturbance, but a forest that is stressed by overcrowding, tree wounding, soil compaction, or drought is more vulnerable to damage.
How is forest health measured?
Forest composition describes the mix of plants living in a forest. Healthy forests have a variety of native species that create an understoryUnderstory The layer of plants that exists closer to the ground under large trees. and a canopy When a forest is replanted with just a single species, it lacks the diversity it needs to stay resilient.
Weeds’ Effect On Forest Composition
Weeds can negatively affect forest composition and harm trees and wildlife. Low species diversity caused by excessive weeds restricts wildlife’s access to food and shelter because they are not adapted to feed on weeds, many of which are invasive plants. Learn about common forest weeds.
Tree vigor describes a tree’s overall health and growth. It considers several factors including leaf color, leaf volume, and tree growth. Combinations of multiple tree health problems worsen individual tree vigor as well as tree stand vigor.
Four primary health problems can reduce tree vigor:
Insects are an important part of forest ecosystems, but some can have harmful effects on tree health. Some insects attack the tree’s wood, while others target its leaves, affecting the tree’s ability to conduct photosynthesis.
Fungi are the primary cause of tree disease and can lead to rot, weakened roots, and loss of limbs. Diseases can also be caused by viruses and bacteria.
- Abiotic factors
Abiotic factors include heatwaves, drought, unseasonal frost, and strong winds.
- Physical damage
Tree wounds, often caused by human activity, provide entry points for harmful insects and diseases.
How can we improve forest health?
Typical Forest Management Involves Practices Such As:
Removing smaller, weaker trees to reduce competition and increase the growing space for other trees.
Planting a variety of native trees and shrubs to increase biodiversityBiodiversity The variety of species present..Explore Native Plants
Removing weeds to give newly planted and young plants a better chance of surviving.Explore Invasive Species Management
Creating habitat to invite beneficial wildlife to the property which can produce health benefits across the entire watershed.Explore Creating Wildlife Habitat