“Timber Stand Improvement” is a habitat restoration technique in which you improve a stand of timber by removing unhealthy and undesirable trees. This reduces the competition for soil nutrients, water and sunlight among the remaining trees. It also increases diversity in the understory by allowing more sunlight to reach the ground which encourages plants to grow. This in turn benefits wildlife by providing increased food and cover. Whitetail deer for example will use the area for browsing because of the increased plant diversity.
I have done TSI in all the woods around my home and I have seen an increase in Bobwhite Quail using this area. It gives them the food and cover in these areas that they didn’t have before. The larger spaces between the trees gives them room to fly when flushed.
Prescribed burning on a regular basis in these areas after doing TSI will improve the plant diversity and also help to further open up the timber stand.
Our method for doing TSI is as follows: We survey the timber stand and decide which trees will be removed. For more information on making these decisions I recommend reading the publication Timber Stand Improvement from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
You can also consult your local Private Lands Conservationist for help.
We then go in with a skid steer and tree clipper and remove all the trees small enough to clip by this method. We stack those trees in brush piles. We usually cut firewood from the lower part of these piles which leaves the tops as nice brush piles for rabbits and other wildlife. Next we remove the bigger trees using a chainsaw and cutting them up for firewood as well. We leave the open tops where they fall which creates great cover for Bobwhite Quail.
If you remove enough trees to allow sunlight to reach the ground, the area can be seeded with native warm season grasses and wildflowers which will increase the plant diversity and the beauty of the area. Following up with prescribed burning every three years will help the plant diversity and also help kill any trees which resprout in the area.
The photo above shows an area after the tree clipping phase. Before the TSI you could not see in past the edge of the woods because the trees were so thick. We did the tree clipping in the fall and we seeded the area with NWSG and Wildflowers in December. By doing the clearing in the fall and seeding that winter there is less competition for your new plants. We will now go into this area when we have time and remove
approximately 1/2 of the remaining trees by cutting them down with a chainsaw and making firewood. Another way to thin some of the trees would be to girdle them or use a herbicide to kill the trees. I won’t go into this method here but this could be done if you aren’t capable of performing the other methods. This will leave some standing dead trees which are great for woodpeckers etc. and may also become den trees for animals such as racoons.
The above picture shows another TSI area in the Spring following a prescribed burn in the winter. Notice all of the green plant life on the forest floor.