Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Grad student results assist state foresters reviewing reforestation standards

Given the chance to present their research to professional foresters, natural resources management graduate students represented the University of Alaska Fairbanks in fine fashion.

Presenting Sept. 30 to members of the state Reforestation Science and Technical Committee (an advisory committee for the Board of Forestry), Andrew Allaby and Miho Morimoto shared their work on forest regeneration. Both are involved in Professor Glenn Juday's Boreal Alaska -- Learning, Adaptation and Production research, education and outreach project. SNRE collaborators in the Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research project were also on the committee's program.

From left, Professor Glenn Juday, Andrew Allaby and Miho Morimoto presented their research findings to the Reforestation Science and Technical Committee on Sept. 30.
"I was so proud of those students," Juday said. "Their presentations affect the actual process of our state's regulatory authority for forest management practices. This was an invaluable experience for graduate students in natural resources management. This is one of the things characteristic of our degree program; we do research with consequences."

Both students reported on tree regeneration in the Tanana Valley State Forest. When SNRE forestry research started nearly 50 years ago, foresters were relying on research results from other geographic areas. A number of pioneering forestry studies were launched by SNRE Professor Keith Van Cleve, most of which have been continued by Professor John Yarie.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, USDA Forest Service scientists at the Institute of Northern Forestry also cooperated closely with the SNRE faculty in the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. INF was closed in the 1990s. After the 1983 Rosie Creek Fire, Juday administered a series of state-funded forest studies involving INF and SNRE. The collaborative group established one of the biggest and most ambitious forest regeneration experiments in Alaska. With state funding, BAKLAP researchers have again been measuring and documenting that specific area.

"We only had 12 years of work before," Juday explained. "I knew there was more to the story. With BAKLAP we were able to salvage that investment and make it pay off 30 years later. That's really gratifying to see."

Morimoto, a doctoral student, spoke on forest regeneration post-harvest in the Fairbanks area of the Tanana Valley State Forest: meeting emerging biomass energy demands.

She has been evaluating harvest for sustainable yield, noting if harvest units are adequately regenerated, testing for significant differences in regeneration among different types of management and examining how much biomass was accumulated in 40 years post-harvest.

Morimoto studies harvest activities and reforestation by thoroughly examining existing databases. She also sampled 30 state forest harvest units to study regeneration over the long term. Throughout the summer of 2013, she measured nearly 700 plots, comparing the management techniques, and since then has been analyzing data.

She concluded harvest units are adequately regenerated, based on the State Sustainable Yield Standard. Her preliminary results show that site preparation and natural regeneration tended to produce denser and larger stems of regeneration and greater amounts of biomass. When the production of larger spruce is the goal, she recommended planting seedlings. To produce maximum wood biomass, she said that site preparation and natural regeneration appear to be the preferred method.

Grad student Allaby addressed the outcome of the 30-year-old white spruce regeneration experiment in a part of the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest burned by the 1983 Rosie Creek Fire. Allaby looked at which white spruce regeneration techniques were most effective in producing biomass. "When the Rosie Creek Fire burned a fair portion of the university forest it gave us an opportunity for new research," he said.

In the 66-acre study area, Allaby measured 140 of the 180 treated units, about 40 meters by 40 meters each. He measured white spruce stocking and growth. He counted trees and measured the diameter of 16,000 trees in an area totaling 4 1/2 acres within the experimental treatment. "It's starting to look like a forest," he said. "It's pleasing to see 60-foot tall aspens and birch and 28-year-old white spruce pushing 40 feet.

"Should we scarify?" he asked. "It depends on the forest management objectives. Should we plant spruce? Broadcast seeding and planting seedlings both have a positive impact on biomass." His results offer the opportunity to match management goals with the most effective practices at the lowest costs.

Juday said the BAKLAP work and graduate student research help foresters focus on climate challenges. "Climate-driven changes are actually playing out in pretty understandable ways but not always exactly predictable ways," he said.

The foresters at the Fairbanks meeting Tuesday and those on the phone from around the state were impressed with the UAF students' presentations. "The foresters seemed delighted to have these research results," Juday said. "The relevance of this research is very high. We're pleased to have had the opportunity to do research that is squarely on target for natural resources management information needs."

1 comment:

Janice Dawe said...

Congratulations Miho and Andrew. Your research will help natural resource managers make critical decisions now, and far into the future.