March 29 (UPI) — North Carolina State researchers said Monday that managers should keep older trees when they timber harvests since they drain less water.
Researchers tracked how water moves through wetland pine forests near the North Carolina coast, found that younger trees take up and release less water than mature trees — those 10 years or older — according to their new study, published Monday in the journal Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.
Clearing the site and replanting could initially increase drainage and flooding, but those impacts would decrease once trees mature, the findings suggest.
“The water balance, especially in coastal sites, is very important,” the study’s lead author Maricar Aguilos, a N.C. State postdoctoral research associate in forestry and environmental resources, said in a press release.
The findings come from a long-term research project into how wetland forests in eastern North Carolina, including pine forests managed for timber and a natural hardwood forest at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Dare County, have been responding to climate change.
The researchers were able to track water flow from meteorological sensors perched on towers above the forest canopy.
“The mature plantations help to mitigate effects of forest harvesting on drainage at a landscape scale,” Aguilos said. “If you harvest to leave trees of different ages, they can help each other.”