Click on the Watersmeet RD to learn more about the study on deer browsing.

Info on the Study Site: Ottawa National Forest - Watersmeet Ranger District

The Ottawa National Forest is located in the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Region IV in the Iron District, Crystal Fall Subdistrict (Albert et al. 1986). This district is largely characterized by rolling ground moraine and steep ice-contact features dominated by northern hardwood forests dominated by sugar maple (Acer saccharum), hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), basswood (Tilia americana), and ironwood (Ostrya virginiana).

The position of the Iron District is unique in that Lake Moderation is less than any other in the state. Although winters are cold (average extreme minimum temperature is -34° C), the district receives relatively large amounts of snowfall, prone to but is prone to severe thunderstorms. Severe winds and thundershowers may act as the chief disturbance agents in the forest. Recent windthrow was seen in three of the five sites (Tamarack Lake, Helen Lake, and Imp Lake.)

In order to assess the differences in stand structure and composition of forest species in response to deer browsing, five sites were chosen within ELTP 38B from 5 different forest management regimes; unmanaged second growth (Tamarack Lake), even-aged management (Morisson Creek), managing for old growth characteristics (Taylor Lake), unmanaged old-growth (Helen Lake), and uneven-aged management (Imp Lake). The managed stands (even-aged management, managing for old-growth characteristics, and uneven aged management) were most recently entered for harvesting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, whereas the unmanaged second growth stand (Tamarack Lake) was entered at the turn of the century and the old-growth (Helen Lake), never entered for timber harvesting.

Across the forests of the Lakes States, an Ecological Classification system has been established, placing the study sites, located in the Ottawa National Forest, in Landtype Association 2 (LTA 2). To further minimize the variation within the LTA 2 class, the study sites are standardized to a finer scale by locating them on Ecological Landtype Phase 38B (ELTP 38B), nested within LTA 2. ELTP 38B occurs on gently sloping moraines, approximately 1-6% slope, and sandy loam soils with a hardpan. Acer-Tsuga-Dryopteris vegetation associations characterize the ELTP 38B. Confounding outside influences are controlled by locating these plots on relatively standardized ecosystem types.

The five sites chosen for this study are located within ELTP 38B on the Winegar Moraine, a product of the late Wisconsinan glaciation 10,000 ya. The soils supporting the northern hardwoods on this major landform are sandy tills and loamy unstratified tills, with slopes ranging from 1-15%. The forest communities of each treatment are dominated by sugar maple, with yellow birch, hemlock, and ironwood. These upland forests are situated near occasional wet depressions and swamps throughout the management unit area.