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Productivity Capacity

Productive capacity can apply to production of market goods (items that could be sold) and non-market goods (items without an easily determined monetary value).  Uses of the forest production could be also be defined as consumptive (wood, pine straw, game animals, fruits and nuts) or non-consumptive (birdwatching, hiking, camping).  Owners can maintain the productive capacity for all potential uses of the forest by setting guidelines for harvest and use or changing practices to increase production or capacity.

Estimating production is one of the most challenging aspects of management.  Timber growth or yield is the annual timber growth in weight of volume.  For sustainable harvests the harvest should not exceed the growth over the management period.  In the 1990's in Alabama annual growth exceeded harvest by 50% for hardwoods and growth and harvest were nearly equal for softwood.  Over time growth may decline due to stand age, mortality due to insects or disease, natural disasters, and decline in site quality.

Site quality is a function of soil fertility, species, and climate.  Owners can't change the climate but they can change species through management and they can maintain or even enhance soil fertility through careful management.  "A Loblolly Pine Management Guide: Managing Site Damage from Logging" contains a number of recommendations for minimizing soil damage that decreases soil fertility.  

General strategies for forest management can be described as either intensive (choice of practices as investment to improve income as long as they improve economic return) or extensive (choice of practice to maintain growth and stocking while minimizing investment in forest management practices).

While intensive culture may improve soil fertility through tillage or fertilization, both intensive and extensive management seeks to maintain soil fertility by minimizing soil damage through soil compaction, rutting, and erosion. Choice and investment in cultural practices to maintain or enhance productivity are complicated decisions that affect all the values produced by the forest.  Resources that describe choices of intensive cultural practices are available at www.forestproductivity.net. Aspects of intensive and extensive management are discussed in "Sustainable Forestry Reforestation: Growing Tomorrow's Forests Today"

Management practices and the resulting landscape impact both game and non-game wildlife species. Their are some presentations and videos available from the popular Master Wildlifer series.  A complete resource for wildlife management is the book "Managing Wildlife in Alabama and the Southeast" which is available at many bookstores.

An increasing challenge to the productivity of Alabama forests is the presence and expansion of invasive species.  Invasive plant species compete with native species and decrease native plant growth and reduce the quality of the habitat for native wildlife species.  The publication "Invasive Plants of the Thirteen Southern States" may be available at your local NRCS office.  The publication provides information on identification and control of many invasive species.  The Alabama Invasive Plant Council provides information relevant to Alabama.

While hiking, birding, or driving may not appear to require management, management of recreation may enhance enjoyment of those opportunities.  "Recreation Options for Your Forestland" discusses how to incorporate recreation in management plans.  You may also chose to address the appearance of management by using a forest aesthetics guide.  Lastly determining how trails might be constructed and used will allow the resource to be utilized and protected.  "Recreational Trail Design and Construction" provides planning and design guides for many types of trails.

In the future landowners might have the opportunity to sell many of the services the forest provides to those that benefit. For a discussion on Ecosystems Services and their potential, visit the USDA Forest Service Ecosystem Services website.