Woodlands are an interdependent system consisting mostly of trees but also contain plants, shrubs, animals and microorganisms. A woodland can vary greatly based on aspect, climate, elevation, location, moisture, soil content and so much more. Iowa's woodlands, much like most across North America, are classified as temperate deciduous forests. This means that our state's woodlands are mostly composed of leafy, hardwood trees. While we have some coniferous trees such as the Eastern Red Cedar and the Eastern White Pine, they are scattered among strands of what still are and use to be temperate deciduous forest.
The topography provided by the Iowa River Greenbelt gives way to many old growth woodlands throughout our entire county. Prime examples of Hardin County woodlands can be found at Anders Wildlife Area, Pine Ridge Park, and Ruby Woodland.
Benefits of Woodland Systems:
Water & Air Quality
Methods of Management:
Burning leaves as part of a prescribed burn. To accomplish our work in the woodlands we implement a vast array of techniques based on the site we are working to help us achieve our goals. Have you ever seen a smoke plume rising up in the distant over one of our parks? That is us bringing prescribed fire back to the landscape, which is an essential tool for us in prairie and woodland management.
Its a very physical job with much of the removal of undesirable trees and invasive plants accomplished by chainsaws and brush-cutters.
On sites that allow it we will try to use heavy machinery to aid in the removal of trees and brush but as many of us know topography is a major part of the Iowa River Greenbelt. Because of this, we have been flash grazing goats since 2014, on our more inaccessible areas. This allows us to complete tree thinning and invasive plant removal in our steepest properties.
Managing a Canopy
Natural Resource Managers also have to consider what we call the basal area, or the total area of forest canopy that crowds over the under-story and forest floor. This means that they are taking into consideration the long-term management of a forest and its succession, or how it will age. By doing this, we have to ensure that desirable trees are receiving the proper amount of sunlight. This will help the young trees to grow straight and tall, instead of outward or not very much at all. Small trees in the under-story are typically called suppressed, meaning they are crowded below. The largest and most biologically mature trees at the top of the canopy are called "dominant" trees. Large trees that aren't quite the biggest in the forest are called "co-dominant" trees, and the smaller trees between here and suppressed are considered "intermediate".