Ecology and Management of Lowland Northern White-Cedar

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Laura S. Kenefic, Shawn Fraver, Jay Wason, Anil Raj Kizha, Keith Kanoti

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Northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis L.) is a common tree throughout northeastern and north-central U.S. and adjacent Canada. Though a minor component of upland forests, cedar is a dominant species on lowland swamps and seeps with moving groundwater. Yet over-browsing by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), competition from other trees and shrubs, and harvesting to meet commercial demand for cedar products have caused undesired species shifts. Our investigations of lowland cedar revealed characteristics important to compositional and structural sustainability. These sites typically have water table at or near the surface, organic soils, pronounced microtopography, highly decayed downed logs, and a moss-covered forest floor. These attributes facilitate cedar regeneration and growth through seed germination and branch layering (rooting). Based on our observations, we are evaluating the potential of irregular shelterwood cutting (thinning and small gaps) for sustainable management of lowland cedar. Construction of permeable roads, winter harvesting, designating machinery trails in areas of low microtopography, avoiding damage to residual trees and downed logs, and laying tree tops and branches in trails are recommended. Where regeneration must be supplemented, seedlings should be planted on elevated microsites and protected from browsing. Mechanical (brushsaw) regeneration release is warranted if competition is high. In all cases, some proportion of overstory cedar trees should be retained for multiple rotations for seed and ecological memory. In areas where cedar is uncommon or deer populations are high, harvests are unlikely to have favorable outcomes.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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