Faculty conversations: Michael Walters
It’s no secret that both deer and logging affect forests’ growth, but Michael Walters says there is a misconception about how quickly trees can grow back after they’ve been removed.
Michael Walters is an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Forestry. His work is multidisciplinary, involving ecologists, sociologists and economists, all collaborating towards the same goal. They seek to describe the misconceptions around forests’ natural regeneration and to identify remedies to fix lost foliage.
“The paradigm under which forests are managed is that one can go into these forests every 10 to 15 years and do what are called ‘selection harvests,’ where about a quarter of the trees in the stand are removed and used for products,” said Walters.
He said because of deer and because the gaps in between harvests are relatively small, the assumption that trees’ natural regeneration regularly occurs is not true.
If certain forests become unsustainable because of deer and the way in which they are harvested, then tree-based products will be in short supply and wildlife habitats for numerous animals will be in danger.
Walters and his colleagues obtain new data each summer from an area of 1 million acres in the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He said his current projects are in their later stages, and useful data is now being extracted.
Walters will present his most recent findings at the Ecological Society of America Conference in Minneapolis this August.