Forest Diversity

Different Species, Different Needs.

When you think about Minnesota’s forests, what’s the first place that comes to mind? Most people picture northern Minnesota with its vast acres of pine, aspen, basswood, oak and maple. But Minnesota’s forests exist far beyond the northern areas. It’s the same with Minnesota’s forest interests. They also extend well beyond the expected. From Aitkin to Zumbro Falls, nearly 300 Minnesota cities are home to businesses from which the forest products industry purchases goods and services. See if your hometown is one of them.

Wildlife Needs Young Forests.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has conducted Breeding Bird Surveys since 1966 to measure songbird population trends. Data shows that 46 percent of bird species dependent on young forests, such as goldenwinged warblers and American woodcocks, are declining whereas only 27 percent of bird species dependent upon mature forests are declining. Young forests are important for many species that serve as prey for larger predators. In Canada for example, lynx primarily prey upon snowshoe hares, which require young forests for survival. Beaver, deer, moose and other prey species also need young forests to survive.

The Need for the Continual Creation of Young Forests.

Young forests grow so quickly that they are available only for a short period of time. Therefore, the continued establishment of young forest habitats through commercial forest management and other habitat management practices is essential for the long-term health of Minnesota’s wildlife. In the past, allowing over-mature forests to succumb to wildfires and other natural events helped create young forests. However, this is no longer feasible due to efforts to prevent, suppress and fight forest fires.

The Current State of Minnesota’s Forests.

Aspen is currently the most abundant deciduous tree in Minnesota. Its regeneration capabilities, dense regrowth characteristics and short life span offer tremendous opportunities to create and maintain young forests. Harvesting an aspen site by clearcutting is visually dramatic and often misunderstood. The reality is that clearcutting aspen is ecologically appropriate and biologically necessary. Being shade-intolerant, Aspen trees require direct sunlight to successfully reproduce and grow. After a mature stand is removed, young aspens sprout by the thousands along live root systems. This is why, through scientific forest management, we can have healthy, productive forests that are biologically diverse while also providing recreation as well as habitat for wildlife.