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Aspen Regeneration: How Many and How Much?
Brian Ferguson, Regional Silviculturist, Intermountain Region, USDA Forest Service, Ogden
Aspen management is beginning to gain momentum in the Intermountain Region as we look at ecosystem processes and function. Restoring aspen to landscapes dominated by conifer forests has become an emphasis toward restoring healthy forests. One of the major questions that are asked is, “How many suckers do I need to establish a new aspen stand.” The second question that follows is, “What do I have to do to get full coverage of aspen because I have some sites that don’t regenerate well.” The basis for the numbers and amount of aspen regeneration within a treatment area are driven primarily by the project objectives described in the proposed action. Aspen generally has the potential for great numbers of suckers following disturbance. Suckering has been noted within a few weeks following fire. The Dixie National Forest has documented as many as 350,000 suckers per acre. I have noticed that people tend to underestimate the potential for suckering and want to manage aspen stands at extremely low numbers. This can present a big problem where grazing ungulates can deplete aspen regeneration to the point the aspen clone is lost. At the same time people want to overestimate the potential for aspen recovery across a stand or landscape. We must gain an understanding of the distribution of the live remnant trees and potential where rootstock may no longer exists. We have noted many cases where aspen only occupies a portion of a stand. As vegetation managers we need to gain a greater understanding for aspen needs and where we have the greatest opportunity for success. We must recognize and deal with potential conflicts with other resource uses and understanding the potential for aspen regeneration and how that contributes to the establishment of new aspen stands.