Forestry Basics

The following three lessons will help you generally understand the "architecture" of the forest, how to measure a tree like a forester, and finally how to estimate the value of what is in your woodlot.  Please keep in mind that this brief introduction will not make you an expert. 

PLEASE consult a forestry professional before making any commitment to harvest.  

Have you ever wondered why your woodlot contains a variety of species and tree sizes? If your woodlot has not been harvested recently then you can assume that most of your trees are the same age, even if they are not the same size. Forests that contain hardwood species such as oaks and maples, not pines, tend to grow in layers. These layers of forest canopy are arranged from top to bottom according to those species that need full sunlight to grow and those that can grow in shade. The species at the top layer, or overstory, also happen to be the species that are the most valuable in the Appalachian region: Oaks, black cherry, and yellow-poplar. These species grow the largest and straightest and have the highest value for sawlogs.

TreesofWVIn West Virginia there are a lot of different trees. The most common commercial species are: Northern red oak (red oak), black oak, white oak, chestnut oak, yellow poplar (tulip tree), sugar maple, red maple, Ash tree, black cherry, birch tree, hickory tree, and walnut tree. There are tons of other trees but they do not have much value like the other trees listed above.  

Here is a link to help you easily identify the different trees in your property.

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Page 7The reason why we need to measure trees is to calculate the valume so we know how big it is and to come up with a price for the tree. Uasualy the bigger the better unless it has defects. The convenient point of measurement is determined by a person's height. A standard point is 4 ½ feet above the ground (above the ground on the uphill side if the tree is on a slope). Stem diameter measured in this manner is referred to as "diameter at breast height" and is abbreviated "dbh". Diameter is usually measured with a special diameter tape sold by forestry supply companies. However, many carpenter's tapes have a scale on the reverse side for measuring units of diameter. Or, you may use a regular cloth tape to measure around the tree and divide the reading by 3.14 to obtain the diameter. Measuring dbh to the nearest inch is adequate.

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