Restoring Old-Growth Characteristics

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Restoring Old-growth Characteristics

Old-growth forest was once the predominant natural condition across New England and New York before European settlement; however, it is now one of the rarest habitats in our region, constituting less than one-tenth of one percent (<0.1%) of our forests. Although 80% of our region is forested, the forests you see today are much different from the vast expanses of old-growth that covered the landscape upon the arrival of the first European colonists. Characteristics that are generally more abundant in old-growth forests include:

  • Presence of large (>20" diameter) and old trees
  • Spatial variation in tree density and size
  • Large-diameter standing dead trees
  • Large downed logs in various stages of decay
  • Multiple canopy layers
  • Understory plant communities
  • Regeneration

There is renewed focus on restoring these characteristics to our current forests given their compatibility with emerging objectives associated with biodiversity conservation, forest carbon, and resilience to climate change. Restoring old-growth characteristics can be done either passively or through active forest management. There are a range of opportunities to increase old-growth structure and it's important to consider increasing the amount of old-growth characteristics in a way that compliments other landowner objectives.

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