Introducing Femelschlag

Visitors to the Cradle of Forestry (located near Brevard, NC in Pisgah National Forest) learn about the Biltmore Forest School – the first school of forestry in North America. It was started in 1898 by Carl Schenck. A native of Germany, Schenck brought German forestry concepts to the United States. It is fitting that today in Pisgah National Forest, researchers are looking to bring a German forestry practice to Pisgah National Forest in an effort to restore oaks.

In 2017 researchers are cutting quarter-acre and one-acre gaps in a 150-acre section of the forest. Forest Service research scientist Tara Keyser is leading this work. The gap cutting technique is called “femelschlag.”

“All of our silviculture techniques come from central Europe,” Keyser explains. “Femelschlag is one of those techniques. It has been practiced as long as forestry.”

The work addresses a big problem facing Southern Appalachian forests – a lack of young oaks. “You can walk miles in an Appalachian forest and not see a head-high oak seedling,” says Keyser. Oaks are being out-competed by other species, particularly yellow poplar.

“A tree is not a tree. There are some trees that are really important because of their role and the niche that they fill,” she says. “On that scale an oak is more important than a poplar. Acorns are an important food source for wildlife.”

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