[Photo by Aaron Carlson via CC 2.0]
Can silvicultural practices be leveraged to maintain diversity in understory plant communities?
In Plain English:
How does cutting down trees affect plant life on the ground?
Julia Burton of Utah State University
What It Covered:
Julia Burton studies one of the more neglected niches in forest ecology–the understory. Many conservation researchers and most media reports focus on the “charismatic megafauna”–trees and large mammals, but vines, shrubs, and other plants that live at ankle-level make up a large share of biomass and biodiversity.
North American forest understory plants are often dismissed as weeds or kinda boring plants, but they could play a key role in achieving the goals of silviculture, or forestry. Burton pointed out that people in forest management are asked to achieve a lot more goals than their counterparts in the past. Not only are forest managers asked to maintain biodiversity, growth, biomass, but they’re also expected to sustain timber production, water resources, ecosystem health, and carbon sequestration ability.
To do that, we need to understand our forests’ dynamics really well, Burton argued. Her work has focused on the upper MidWest and Northwest, the North American forest with the largest potential for storing carbon against climate change.