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Pros/Cons to limbing trees (timber forest)

 
                            
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What are the thoughts regarding pros and cons of tree limbing?

I have a mixed tree forest, lots of varieties, fir/pine/tamarack/alder/dogwood....

This can be a high fire risk area at certain times of the year and so many folk "limb" or remove the lower limbs from their trees to help remove dead wood that fuel fires and enable them to spread fast.

But I just keep thinking... if there wasn't a reason for them to be there, the trees would have shed them. Are they providing habitat or part of a "transportation network" for some sort of critters......

Any thoughts on this? Not sure if I should limb or not.

Thanks!
 
John Polk
master steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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The trees themselves, and the understorey will benefit from prudent trimming.  Dead and dieing branches are robbing sunlight, water and nutrients from the healthy parts of the tree.  Sick branches are a prime location for insects and diseases to enter (and kill) the tree.  Your understorey will grow lusher, providing many benefits to your soil and plants.  You will also gather lots of firewood, or hugelkulture material.  The fire risk is yet another good reason.
 
                                    
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Location: Alberta Canada
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Lower branches tend to die because of lack of sunlight.  Your (?)neighbours have the right idea of clearing away the dead limbs and twigs to reduce the chance or spread of fire.  (If there is a high fire danger having a hose handy to wet the area would be helpful as it takes a lot less water to stop a fire than put one out.)

Forests grow in stages, grass land, small shrubs, Labrador Tea, Service Berry, then coarse shrubs Alder, Sumac, followed in turn by willow, poplar, spruce, pines and hardwoods.  The species varies by location, each generation nursing/nurturing the next.  Removing dead twigs and limbs opens the canopy allowing sunlight to reach the ground.

Please don't go trough the woodlot and pick up every log and branch you find, they provide habitat for all sorts of flora, fauna and fertilizer for the next forest.  The 'duff'; the layer of decaying leaves and needles on the ground.  Duff serves several purposes, erosion control and fertilizer being the primary ones.  

As to how far up the clear the dead limbs, depends on the final use of the timber or aesthetics desired.  

As to far to go into the forest, not more than half way after that you are coming out.

Thinning, check with a local forester before removing any trees, especially in a reforested area.  The tree roots are intertwined and the introduction of a fungus has the potential of destroying the entire wood lot.  The forester will be able to recommend ways to seal the stumps which should be cut as close to the ground as possible.  

Provincial or State Governments have departments that can provide you with information on how to manage woodlots.  They have made the mistakes and learned from them (I hope) and YOU have already paid them.

John
Forestry Engineering Technician

This information is provided for discussion only.

Forestry practices vary from location to location check with a Forester in your area.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
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Feral wrote:
What are the thoughts regarding pros and cons of tree limbing?

I have a mixed tree forest, lots of varieties, fir/pine/tamarack/alder/dogwood....

This can be a high fire risk area at certain times of the year and so many folk "limb" or remove the lower limbs from their trees to help remove dead wood that fuel fires and enable them to spread fast.

But I just keep thinking... if there wasn't a reason for them to be there, the trees would have shed them. Are they providing habitat or part of a "transportation network" for some sort of critters......

Any thoughts on this? Not sure if I should limb or not.

Thanks!



I am in the Fukuoka camp.  I don't trim trees or bushes unless someone did it first prior to me getting the plant or tree. 

Let's put this into perspective, a tree, some of which are older then most countries (including the US) & know how to grow, and sheds leaves, etc for thousands of years prior to humans chopping all willy nilly with things made of metal they found.

So what do you trust there, the thing that has been growing longer then you have been alive with no help, or do you have to help it along to make it better?  Wait, who we making this better for?  It isn't the birds, or the plant itself.  It isn't the insects that live on and around the branches.  Hmmm

 
T. Pierce
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
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Mekka Pakanohida wrote:

I am in the Fukuoka camp.  I don't trim trees or bushes unless someone did it first prior to me getting the plant or tree. 

Let's put this into perspective, a tree, some of which are older then most countries (including the US) & know how to grow, and sheds leaves, etc for thousands of years prior to humans chopping all willy nilly with things made of metal they found.

So what do you trust there, the thing that has been growing longer then you have been alive with no help, or do you have to help it along to make it better?  Wait, who we making this better for?  It isn't the birds, or the plant itself.  It isn't the insects that live on and around the branches.  Hmmm


does this type of mentality also apply to fruit trees?

 
Mark Vander Meer
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We regularly prune conifers to enhance vigor and wood quality.  Our work over the past 20 years demonstrates that it works well.  As mentioned by others, most trees self prune, letting shaded limbs that do not produce sugars die slowly over many years.  These limbs are an energy sink, and once removed, the tree allocates these sugars to other tasks.  Skillful limbing can drastically increase the value of the wood, if a tree is harvested for lumber. 
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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A friend and I did a clip on coppicing for a forest garden just the other day:

We left oaks, chesnuts, cherry & cedar trees, while harvesting maple, loblolly pine, poplar.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDLhds_SbDM



More here: http://livingwind.tumblr.com/

Peace -
 
Jonathan Byron
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Depends on the tree in question. Some plants thrive on such practices; others, not so much. Some herbs and grasses like to be grazed, others will decline if regularly cut back.

I'm trying to figure out how much (or if) I should prune a mulberry tree to keep the branches in reach. Some people have reported problems with wound healing and diseases if pruning is frequent. But plenty of trees can be coppiced to good effect.
 
Jack Shawburn
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I like Mark's explanation. Pruning of trees has induced vigor for ages.
I am also reminded of Jean Pain who cleared brushwood
to reduce the fire risks , then put the chipped brushwood to vey good use !
Jean Pain is worth a quich search - some interesting videos on his work.
 
George Lee
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Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Jen0454 wrote:
I like Mark's explanation. Pruning of trees has induced vigor for ages.
I am also reminded of Jean Pain who cleared brushwood
to reduce the fire risks , then put the chipped brushwood to vey good use !
Jean Pain is worth a quich search - some interesting videos on his work.

That's a good point. That's what I plan to do with all the saplings we've harvested. The maples are going to the chipper, natural building projects, trelissing.

 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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if you have wildlife the lower branches will be giving them winter food, if you remove the winiter food for the wildlife they will have nothing to eat but your prized plants
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Brenda Groth wrote:
if you have wildlife the lower branches will be giving them winter food, if you remove the winiter food for the wildlife they will have nothing to eat but your prized plants
Unless you plant prized winter~tolerant grains on your edges or along your pathways..
 
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