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A second growth forest, with even-aged young trees. Second growth is forest that grows up after a disturbance leads to trees being replaced. This disturbance can be human-caused like logging or a forest fire, or it can be a "natural" disturbance such as an insect infestation or a wildfire. Second growth is dominated by trees that are younger than what are typically found in old growth, and it often, but not always, lacks characteristics such as a many-layered canopy, large snags, and large downed wood both on the ground and in the streambeds.

If allowed to grow, second growth will eventually turn into old growth as the trees mature and the forest begins to develop old growth characteristics.

Key features of an old growth forest:

  • large trees
  • several vertical canopy layers (ie. understory, mid-story, overstory)
  • openings in canopy created by fallen trees
  • standing dead trees, called snags
  • lots of large, rotting wood on forest floor

Comparative features of an even-aged second growth forest:

  • younger, smaller trees of similar ages
  • a single canopy layer (trees of similar heights)
  • solid canopy; generally few openings
  • few, if any, snags
  • fewer, smaller-sized rotting wood on forest floor

As the forest landowner or the forester charged with managing the forest, we can manage second growth stands to include old growth characteristics. We can leave and/or create snags for certain types of wildlife during harvest. We can leave and/or create large downed wood on the forest floor and in the streams for more structure and habitat. We can leave large trees, and thin smaller trees to encourage the growth of the remaining trees and the shrubs and trees in the "understory".

These management decisions are usually made for each harvest unit, depending on the many different characteristics that make each forest stand unique, and depending on the needs of the land manager. The decision reflects our need for the wood in the trees and our need for a healthy forest!