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Wildlife and forestry research
Learn about wildlife and forestry research
Olson Oak Woods SNA response to prescribed fire. The right half has been burned 4 times over 11 years, while the left half has remained unburned.

Olson Oak Woods SNA response to prescribed fire. The right half has been burned 4 times over 11 years, while the left half has remained unburned.

Regeneration in a deer exclosure within a scarified 80-ft gap, Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest.

Regeneration in a deer exclosure within a scarified 80-ft gap, Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest.

Measuring tree diameter.

Measuring tree diameter.

Large hollow trees are a key component of old-growth forests, providing wildlife habitat and unique structural characteristics.

Large hollow trees are a key component of old-growth forests, providing wildlife habitat and unique structural characteristics.

Wildlife and Forestry Research - Forest Ecology, Social Science, and Economics

Wisconsin's 16 million acres of forests and millions of urban trees add significant value to the state in terms of ecological, economic, and social benefits and the individual well-being of Wisconsin citizens. The Wisconsin DNR is dedicated to encouraging sustainable management and protection of forest resources and urban trees, and enhancing the forest benefits that people rely on. Forestry research plays a crucial role in informing such goals.

Wisconsin's forests are highly valued for contributing to the state's economy through a variety of timber industry, recreation, and tourism related jobs and revenue. Forests also help maintain water quality, offer recreational opportunities, and provide habitat for diverse plants and animals. Science Services provides high quality data that can help answer forest management questions, address landscape planning needs, and identify and evaluate emerging issues. Such information can help managers and other stakeholders effectively maintain and enhance multiple forest benefits. The strong forestry research program within Science Services integrates ecological, social science, and economic research to directly meet the diverse information needs of land managers, businesses, non-governmental organizations and groups, tribes, communities, and private citizens.

Wildlife and forestry researchers are currently involved with the following projects relating to forestry research:

Forest Ecology

Managed old-growth silvicultural study (MOSS)

The objective of the managed old-growth silvicultural study is to investigate the use of novel silvicultural prescriptions to accelerate the development of old-growth characteristics in second-growth northern hardwood forests while still allowing for some timber extraction. Research associated with MOSS is being conducted in multiple focus areas including silviculture, wildlife, and economics. Results from this research will provide managers with sound quantitative information on these new silvicultural prescriptions. If they produce the desired results (i.e., characteristics associated with old-growth habitat, some timber extraction), these prescriptions will be an important management option for land managers in northern Wisconsin.

More information on the managed old-growth silvicultural study

Project timeline: 2001 - 2057

Lead DNR scientists: Karl Martin, Karin Fassnacht, and Dustin Bronson

Oak ecosystem management

This study seeks to quantify and compare the results of various oak regeneration techniques to develop ecologically sound and consistently reliable recommendations for oak management in Wisconsin. The results of this study should yield practical techniques for regenerating oak trees and maintaining the oak ecosystem as a whole. We are investigating oak regeneration, understory plants, and birds at this point.

Project timeline: 1996 - ongoing

Lead DNR scientist: Rich Henderson

Comparison of old-growth and managed forest communities

The goal of this project is to refine forest management strategies to maintain the biodiversity of Wisconsin's forests. I was involved in the first of two phases, which assessed if old-growth (unmanaged) forests differ from managed forests in species composition or ecological processes. This phase is completed and among other findings identified a key difference in the amount of woody debris and hemlock between harvested forests and old growth (unharvested) forests. Avian habitat relationships are being compared between different stand types (managed, unmanaged, and old-growth).

Project timeline: 1993 - 2013

Lead DNR scientist: Michael Mossman

Responses of Avian Communities to Management for Old-growth Characteristics

We are currently studying different silvicultural treatments to determine how best to manage for old-growth characteristics in the northern hardwoods forest of Wisconsin. Our goal is to determine how these silvicultural treatments affect bird communities. Three treatments plus a control were applied to four 120 ac. stands in each of three replicates in winter, 2008. We conducted breeding season point-count and spot-mapping surveys from 2004-2012 in the twelve stands, so we have 4 years of pre-treatment data and 5 years of post-treatment data. We plan to continue surveying intermittently through at least 2058.

Project timeline: 2004 - ongoing

Lead DNR scientists: Mike Worland and Karl Martin

Carbon sequestration

The objective of this study is to quantify, compare, and track carbon pools in various components of forest stands during stand development under traditional and alternative management techniques. Results of this study will provide data that can inform policy development on the use of woody biomass for energy production, where carbon gains and losses are important. Results could also potentially inform carbon policies for cap and trade systems and provide information for use in developing state-level policies for forest management that would help mitigate climate change.

Project timeline: 2010 - ongoing

Lead DNR scientists: Karin Fassnacht and Dustin Bronson

An ecological assessment of varying deer densities and forest habitat

This study was designed to evaluate the impact of varying densities of deer on forest ecosystems. Results from this research will be used to provide information on the ecological carrying capacity of deer in Wisconsin's forest. Information gathered from this project will be used to help managers and policymakers institute management actions that increase, decrease, or maintain current deer densities.

Starting in 2012 scientists from DNR and UW-Madison have been evaluating potential sites on which to build deer enclosures in hardwood forested systems in northern Wisconsin. Pretreatment data collection is planned for 2013 with enclosures being implemented in 2014.

Project timeline: 2011 - 2020

Lead DNR scientist: Karl Martin and Dustin Bronson

Habitat selection of flying squirrels in managed old-growth forests

We are evaluating the response of flying squirrels to experimentally manipulated and nonmanipulated hardwood forests in northern Wisconsin. Key habitat features include tree size, gap opening size, and down wood levels. Results will be used to develop old- growth management guidelines for the Great Lakes Region.

Project timeline: 2009 - 2012

Lead DNR scientist: Karl Martin

Social Science and Economics

Oak regeneration and policy: a multi-state investigation of the Driftless Area

We are evaluating regional variations in forest change, and specifically the dominance of oak species, across the Driftless Area of Midwest and relative importance of various ecological, social, and economic factors on oak regeneration. Our integrated research approach includes a quantitative evaluation of long-term forest inventory data, identification and spatial analysis of limiting factors of oak regeneration through social surveys with regional land managers and foresters, and qualitative assessment of policy design and administration in the context of oak management and regeneration success. Findings from this project will help identify key opportunities for building upon existing policies and programs to encourage successful oak regeneration across the region.

Project timeline: 2010 - ongoing

Lead DNR scientist: Tricia Knoot

Managing for old-growth attributes: Harvesting productivity and costs associated with restorative silvicultural practices

As part of the Managed Old-growth Silvicultural Study (MOSS), we are investigating the harvesting productivity and costs that are associated with restorative silvicultural practices as compared to more conventional practices in northern hardwood forests. We will also determine the potential impact of using the innovative restorative silvicultural practices on regional timber supply and stumpage revenues. Findings from the forest economics/forest operations research component of the MOSS project will contribute to broader understanding of impact of these alternative silvicultural practices on ecosystem services and trade-offs.

Project timeline: 2001 - ongoing

Lead DNR scientists: Karl Martin, Karin Fassnacht, Tricia Knoot, and Dustin Bronson

An environmental and economic assessment of forest biomass harvesting in Wisconsin

We will assess the amount of available woody debris from an economic and environmental aspect as well as assess the ecological role of woody debris in forested ecosystems that have recently been harvested. The goal of this research is to provide policymakers, resource managers, energy companies, and the forest industry valuable information about ecological and economic factors associated with forest biomass harvesting. We will provide a volume estimate of woody debris and assess the role of coarse woody debris in our forested ecosystems.

Project timeline: 2009 - 2012

Lead DNR scientist: Karl Martin

Last revised: Tuesday March 31 2015