Beech disease studied
WATERBURY — State and federal foresters and wildlife biologists met earlier this fall to discuss the problem of beech bark disease related to the future of beech trees, forest management and wildlife. Biologists and foresters report that 2006 is a good beech mast (nut) year, but they are concerned with the overall health of the trees and with trends to harvest trees that show signs of the disease.
Vermont biologists point out that beech nuts are an important fall food for small mammals, deer, turkey, ruffed grouse and bear. The behavior, movements and reproduction of these animals are influenced by the availability of the nutritious nuts. Stands of beech trees with significant evidence of use by black bears are considered critical wildlife habitat.
Researchers stress that while the disease does kill some trees quickly, others decline very slowly, and some are resistant to the disease. Many beech trees have some tolerance to the disease, enabling them to cope with it although they often develop scarred, rough, or discolored bark. Partially resistant trees can survive and produce large amounts of nuts.
Foresters note that many beech trees with rough, cankered bark continue to grow and often have sound, valuable wood.
State foresters and biologists recommend that landowners, foresters and other natural resource managers carefully assess the health of these trees and the benefits they can provide, prior to decisions for harvest of beech bark-infected forest stands.
Foresters and biologists are developing technical management guidelines to assist forest managers evaluating and planning management for beech stands in Vermont. Once completed, the guidelines will be applied to four or five test sites on state lands. The results will be monitored for effectiveness.
For more information on managing stands infected with beech bark disease or on proceedings from the Vermont Beech Bark Conference, contact: Barbara Burns at 885-8821 or Ron Kelley at 888-5733 of the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.