Our land has the beginning characteristics of later old growth forest, though technically it may not occur on the site for another 500-1000 years.
Forest succession is where a forest goes from post-disturbance bare ground to plants fighting to get higher than everything around them and then on to dense forest followed by multi-level complex forest. Our forest exhibits many of the characteristics of much later stage forests. We have dense native understory, high Douglas-fir overstory, and the mid-level hemlocks and cedars that eventually replace the larger Douglas firs to create a “climax forest”.
The Douglas firs can live to be over a thousand years old. So, the climax forest on our property is quite a ways away. However, many forests initially have much more uniform stands of just Douglas fir that are trying to out-compete each other and keep light from the understory or other trees. Our land was professionally thinned about 20 years ago. This helped balance competition among the Douglas firs, allowed nutrients and water to be allocated to fewer trees for their better strength and growth, and allowed enough of those underlying building blocks to be combined with sufficient light for a healthy understory as well.
The forest is off to a great start for replicating a long term native Pacific Northwest forest.
In the Forest Stewardship class, we learned about forest ecology, cycles, and the movement of energy and materials throughout the ecosystem. In addition, we learned 25 different bush and tree species through picture identification and hands-on limb/leaf identification samples. I’m starting to remember this stuff!