Virtual Tour of the Forest: Script

Virginia's forests are a renewable natural resource of great importance to all of us. Trees provide both economic value and environmental benefits.

Forests moderate our climate, provide clean water and scenic beauty, recreational opportunities and homes for wildlife. Forests provide jobs, spiritual renewal and improve our quality of life.

Virginia's forest are ever changing ... each turn in the path brings new encounters with different plants, insects and wildlife.

Virginia's forests are diverse ... from the extensive loblolly pine forests of the flat, low-lying coastal plain, through the patchwork of pines, interspersed among the hardwood forests of the rolling hills of the piedmont, to the white pine and upland hardwood forests of the western mountains.

Come take a walk through the forest and discover the many fascinating aspects of nature.

In the Southeastern United States pine trees usually live about half as long as hardwood trees. That is why Virginia's forests either have all pine trees or all hardwood trees.

Occasionally pines and hardwoods can be found together ... however all forests are constantly changing as they grow over time.

Sometimes the changes are swift as a result of fire, ice, wind or timber harvest. Sometimes these changes are centipede slow.

Choose any forest type to discover how that forest ecosystem developed, how it can be kept healthy and which animals live there.

Script: Young Hardwood

This stand of hardwood trees is three years old. When a hardwood forest is disturbed by fire, insects, disease, or timber harvest, young hardwood stands will develop naturally.

All the hardwood trees were harvested from this site three years ago using the clearcut method - where all the trees are harvested at one time. The new stand of trees has developed from stump or root sprouts and seeds from the trees of the previous stand.

The clear-cut is one of the most successful methods of reproducing hardwood forests where white oak regeneration is desired.

A forest is a busy place with the interaction of plants, trees, and many different animals.

Things are always happening in the forest. In this forest ecosystem all the living organisms, both plants and animals, interact with each other and with the soil and climate.

Plants and animals grow and die in the ever-changing circle of life.

The dominant plants in the forest ecosystem are trees and they greatly influence all the other plants and animals.

Each age of forest and tree species have a variety of wildlife which nest, feed or seek shelter in that specific habitat.

Specific animals and birds can be found in very young stands where the sun hits the ground and herbaceous plants thrive.

This vigorous plant growth provides food and cover for quail, wild turkey and rabbits. Song birds like the blue bird nest and feed in these open areas where insects and seeds abound.

Middle Age Hardwood

(before Timber Stand Improvement - TSI)

This hardwood stand is about 40 years old and has not received any improvement treatments. Squirrels nest and feed, turkeys roost, deer eat the acorns and tiny tender twigs called browse. Some species of birds live in the tree canopies and other species favor the low growing brush.

Piedmont forests usually include various species of oak and hickory, yellow poplar, red maple, sweet gum, black gum, and other dominate species. The understory will include dogwood, hackberry and many other species.

Middle Age Hardwood

(after Timber Stand Improvement)

This hardwood stand is about 40 years old and has received timber stand improvement treatment. This treatment also improves the wildlife habitat for many species.

When a timber stand improvement cut is made the forest is up to allow sunlight to hit the forest floor, which in turn allows herbaceous plant to grow. These plants provide food and cover for a variety of wildlife, and the stumps will sprout and provide browse for deer. The remaining trees have room to grow and will have better crops of acorns or hickory nuts which are eaten by squirrels, turkeys, and deer. Some species of birds live in the tree canopies and other species favor the low growing brush.

Middle age hardwoods, can be improved by a timber stand improvement cut which takes out the less desirable and less valuable trees, leaving the best trees.

The trees removed during this cut could be used for firewood, pulpwood, and other products where smaller, poorer quality wood is used.

Script: Old Hardwood

This hardwood stand is 80 to 100 years old. At this age hardwood trees in the southeastern United States are less vigorous and may be more susceptible to insects and disease.

Having a diversity of forest types and ages keeps the forest healthy, helps reduce insect and disease problems and benefits a variety of wildlife.

All plants and trees eventually die. Forests can be kept healthy and growing through proper management. Occasionally this includes harvesting older trees or forests to make room for younger healthier ones.

Having a diversity of forest types and ages benefits a variety of wildlife. When forests are mature and are harvested the primary consideration should be creating conditions favorable for the development of a healthy new stand of trees.

Oaks and other trees are valuable for wildlife and as forest products such as lumber, paper and furniture. They must have full sunlight to grow. Often all the trees must be removed so full sunlight can reach the ground. Removing all the trees results in a stand of even aged trees like the young hardwoods described elsewhere in this program.

Mature stands can be harvested in several ways depending on the tree species, site conditions and landowner's objectives.

As trees die they attract insects which provide food for birds. Cavities provide shelter for animals such as squirrels, raccoons, and opossums.

As wood is broken down by fungi and bacteria, the organic matter and nutrients are released from the wood and work their way into the soil.

The nutrients are recycled and used by different plants. The plants compete for available nutrients, which means nutrient recycling in a forest ecosystem is very important.

Selective cutting of the large trees, in mature stands, leaves poorer quality and less valuable trees for the future. This type of cutting is called highgrading and is often done because of a higher immediate profit and not realizing partial harvest usually favors red maple and other less valuable species. A forester should be contacted to provide proper management recommendations.

Managing forest resources with sound advice from a professional forester is necessary to maintain overall forest health. Additional environmental values and economic benefits such as clean air, pure water, recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat, scenic beauty, and quality of life are sustained with wise management.

Help is available from your Virginia Department of Forestry. Our mission is to protect and develop healthy, sustainable forest resources for you.

Script: Shelterwood

Forests can be regenerated by removing all but the best 40 to 60 trees and cutting the smaller, more poorly formed trees in what is called a shelterwood cut. When scattered large trees are left in a shelterwood cut, some tree species which are intermediate shade-tolerant trees such as northern red oak are favored. These large trees will be harvested, after the new stand of saplings is established, in 5 to 10 years.

Selective cutting of the large trees, in mature stands, leaves poorer quality and less valuable trees for the future. This type of cutting is called highgrading and is often done because of a higher immediate profit and not realizing partial harvest usually favors red maple and other less valuable species. A forester should be contacted to provide proper management recommendations.

Script: Deferment Harvest

The deferment cut looks like a park with about 20 large trees per acre remaining. If the landowner does not want to clear-cut, but wants to regenerate trees requiring full sun like white oaks, then this is the type of harvest to keep the forest healthy and growing.

The 20 large trees will be harvested about 40 to 50 years later with the timber stand improvement harvest cut. Opening the forest improves wildlife habitat and growing conditions for the remaining trees.

Selective cutting of the large trees, in mature stands, leaves poorer quality and less valuable trees for the future. This type of cutting is called highgrading and is often done because of a higher immediate profit and not realizing partial harvest usually favors red maple and other less valuable species. A forester should be contacted to provide proper management recommendations.

Script: Young Pine

The stand in the virtual reality window shows a 3 year old stand of loblolly pine which was hand planted. The area to the right received hardwood control, which makes room for herbaceous growth important to quail and rabbit for food and cover. With good management, planted seedlings will rapidly outgrow the hardwood competition, often exceeding two feet in height growth each year. To the left, the hardwood will soon shade out the important herbaceous plants. Behind you is a eight year old planted stand of loblolly pine.

Pines are mostly pioneer species - the first trees to seed in on bare ground after a fire or on abandoned fields. Like most oak trees, pine seedlings need full sunlight to grow - they cannot tolerate shade.

Loblolly pine is the most common species found in the southern part of Virginia. Shortleaf pine and Virginia pine can also be found in southern Virginia but are more common in Northern Virginia.

Pine trees do not sprout from stumps or roots like many hardwoods. They germinate from windblown seeds or nursery grown seedlings that are planted. Since they originate from seeds on bare soil or are planted, all the trees in a pine stand are usually about the same age.

Almost all of the land in Virginia was used for agriculture crops sometime during the past 300 years. The forests we have today became established when the land was no longer farmed.

In many parts of Virginia the soil will not produce good quality hardwoods but will grow crops of pine timber. Hot, dry, less fertile sites are best for pine tree growth after timber harvesting is completed.

Script: Middle Age Pine

When pine stands reach an age of 16 to 20 years they need to be thinned. The thinning removes the smaller and poorer quality trees and leaves more room for the best trees to develop.

Thinning also keeps the stand growing vigorously so it is less susceptible to bark beetle attack. In stands which are not thinned, the smaller trees will be crowded out and die. The virtual reality shows many trees which have already died.

The pine trees cut in the thinning are sold as pulpwood and are used for making paper and chip board.

A heavy thinning in pine can greatly improve the habitat by opening the forest floor to more sunlight which accelerates the growth of herbaceous plants like huckleberries, grasses and succulent shrubs. This new growth also provides cover and nesting habitat for many animals.

Script: Old Pine

This pine stand was planted in the 1950's and has been thinned twice. It is mature and its growth and health are beginning to decline.

When trees are mature they will become susceptible to insects and diseases and start to die. This is the time to harvest the trees and start a new, young, vigorous forest.

Dying trees attract insects which provide food for birds. Tree cavities provide shelter for animals such as squirrels, raccoon, and opossum.

As the wood decays fungi and bacteria break down the organic matter and nutrients are released from the wood and work their way into the soil.

The nutrients are recycled and used by different plants. The plants compete for available nutrients, which means nutrient recycling in a forest ecosystem is very important.

Video Pine Harvesting and Planting (two video frames - Video of harvesting and planting + wildlife)

Landowners should seek professional forestry assistance to determine when to harvest and how to maintain a healthy forest. This kind of assistance with the timber sale can significantly increase the income to the landowner from the sale.

There should be a written contract to avoid misunderstandings. A forester can provide additional information on marketing the timber and timber sale contract considerations.

A forester can determine which tree species is best for the soil and site. If the site is best suited for pine, then the area can be planted with genetically improved tree seedlings grown locally at Virginia Tree Nurseries.

If the site is suited to growing quality hardwoods the forester can prescribe forestry practices to manage for hardwood species and improve the health and productivity of a new forest.

The future of the forest depends on the decisions you make today. With a commitment to conservation and wise management advice from a professional resource manager, forest landowners can sustain the environmental values, quality of life, and economic benefits provided by our bountiful forests.

Script: Special Use Forest

Small areas of forest in special locations can have a big impact on the environmental values of a larger landscape or ecosystem.

Forest buffers, narrow borders of trees preserved along streams and rivers, or beside roads, or adjacent to open or developed areas, provide numerous benefits to the quality of life for both people and wildlife.

Forest buffers provide a diversity of habitats beneficial to a variety of wildlife species. Animals and birds use these special forest areas at different stages in their growth and in different seasons for food supply, nesting, and raising young, as protected travel corridors and cover for survival.

Often these border areas provide basic habitat needs during critical times such as bad weather or when food is not available.

Clean water is an important forest product. Forest buffers maintained along watersheds or restored in agricultural or developed areas provide tremendous benefits in filtering runoff and preventing erosion, which improves water quality for aquatic life and societal needs. Shading streams and moderating water temperatures is critical for many fish and aquatic organisms.

Buffers are valuable for numerous other benefits including slowing flood waters, enhancing aesthetics, stopping the spread of wildfire, providing recreation opportunities, or protection of endangered species and habitats.

Script: Urban Forest

The economy of an area is improved by having trees. People shop longer along tree-lined streets and apartments and offices in wooded areas rent more quickly. Trees can also add 10 percent or more to a property's value.

Trees improve the quality of life and the beauty of our surroundings. Trees help relieve stress associated with living in cities and medical research indicates patients in rooms that have a view of trees get better faster.

(With the VR of an urban forest buffer)

Trees are always working to help people.

Trees can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and tree windbreaks can save 20 to 50 percent in energy used for heating.

Trees reduce noise pollution by absorbing unpleasant sounds from the urban environment.

Trees improve air quality by trapping and holding dust particles that can damage human lungs. Tree leaves absorb carbon dioxide and other poisonous gases and, in turn, replenish the atmosphere with oxygen for us to breathe.

One acre of trees provides oxygen for 18 people. Trees save household energy by cooling during hotter months and serving as a windbreak in the winter. As a result, you burn less fossil fuel for heating and cooling.

(With video of wildlife associated with urban trees.)

These wooded strips provide a local ecosystem and provide habitat for animals and birds that would otherwise be absent from urban areas. Leaves and twigs are the basis of food in the stream ecosystem, being utilized by insects that are in turn prey for fish.

This shade also provides habitat for a variety of birds and small mammals. These buffers also act as travel corridors between larger habitat areas and provide food, shelter and nesting sites.

Riparian buffers also provide for recreational activities such as fishing, hiking, and bird watching.

Script: Riparian Buffer

A riparian forest buffer is a strip of trees, shrubs, and other vegetation along with the undisturbed forest floor next to streams, rivers and lakes. These narrow strips of trees are critical for filtering water running off the land and also provide habitat for wildlife.

A streamside forest slows floodwaters. They also improve water quality by filtering runoff and promoting sediment deposition. These areas store water in plant roots and provide pathways to underground water storage. A riparian buffer will filter out most nitrogen and phosphorus, which increase algae growth.

(With the wildlife video)

Streamside forests provide habitat for a variety of birds and small mammals. These buffers also act as travel corridors between larger habitat areas and provide food, shelter and nesting sites.

Riparian buffers also provide for recreational activities such as fishing, hiking, and bird watching.

Script: Water Quality

Scientific research in the Blue Ridge Mountains and other places has proven cutting trees does not cause soil erosion. Forest management and timber harvesting can be accomplished without harming the soil or water quality. The key is a well-planned project using proven techniques called "best management practices" or BMP's for short.

(Streamside Buffer VR)

The arrow identifies a small stream, which is protected from sediment runoff by the trees left uncut within the riparian forest buffer.

Trees improve water quality by reducing runoff and erosion. Forests along streams can remove excess nitrogen, filter sediments and reduce phosphorus that would enter streams. Trees along streams hold the soil in place, slow water flow, and filter the water coming from upland areas.

Streamside forest buffers provide canopy cover, which shades and cools the stream, improving habitat conditions for instream organisms such as fish, salamanders, frogs and aquatic insects that are a key link in the food chain.

Timber harvesting usually includes log roads to allow log trucks to enter the area. Skidders, that drag logs to an area called a "landing" where they are then loaded onto trucks, use skid trails.

If the log roads, skid trails, and landings are properly located and constructed then the environment can be protected. Any disturbed soil should be sown to grass after the harvest.

(Wildlife Opening VR)

Often the log landing is used for a wildlife opening and is planted to grasses and other plants, which provide food and cover for a variety of wildlife.

(Wildlife Video - REPEAT)

Streamside forest buffers provide canopy cover, which shades and cools the stream, improving habitat conditions for instream organisms such as fish, salamanders, frogs and aquatic insects that are a key link in the food chain.

Often the log landing is used for a wildlife opening and is planted to grasses and other plants, which provide food and cover for a variety of wildlife.

Script: Forest Products

Many different products are made from the wood, which is harvested in Virginia.

When timber is harvested there are usually large straight logs, which can be made into lumber for framing houses, and small or crooked logs, which can be used for pallets, flooring, paper, and other products.

Some small crooked logs are chipped into pieces and then glued back together to make various products including chipboard, which is used under floors, roofs, and sides when houses are built. Some chemicals in wood are used to make plastics and even used in food products.

(Debarker VR)

The forest products industry ranks first in manufacturing jobs and second in salaries and wages in Virginia. Timber market values rank second behind poultry and eggs when compared to all of Virginia agricultural crops

When logs are brought to a sawmill they are sorted by size and species of trees, then stacked in the log yard. Then when they are needed the bark is removed and they proceed through the head saw.

(Headsaw VR)

The head saw cuts the log lengthwise into long rectangular pieces called "cants". The "slabs" which are sawn off the edge of the logs are chipped and sold to paper mills to make paper. The bark is sold for mulch to put around shrubbery.

(Endsaw VR)

The log which has been cut into a long rectangular piece called a "cant" will be resawn into boards using a gang saw. The boards move down a conveyor and are sorted by species, grade, width and length.

The boards are seasoned or dried so they will stay straight and not warp. The boards will be sold to retail lumber stores, furniture plants, and other places where the wood will be manufactured into a variety of products.

Script: Fire

Wildfire or forest fires, which occur during hot, dry, windy periods, can be very destructive of forests, wildlife habitats, and houses. The term "wildfire" usually brings to mind television pictures of homes being threatened by a raging fire out of control.

In Virginia, 99 percent of wildfires are caused by people. Each year wildfires cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to control and to protect homes. Annually, about 1000 fires burn 4,000 acres of forest land. In addition to destroying timber, wildlife habitat, and occasionally houses, hot fires destroy the covering on the forest floor and erosion can occur when rains come.

(Good fire video)

Low intensity fires are important in some forest types to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Fire clears the forest of woody debris providing room for new plants to grow. Some plants are dependent on occasional fires to be able to reproduce. Fires result in a flush of new growth, which provides food and habitat for many birds and animals. Fire is an important component of the forest ecosystem.

Fire also is important in the release of nutrients from woody material. Phosphorus, potash and other essential nutrients are found in the ash left from fire and are nature's way of fertilizing the new plant growth.

(Wildlife Video)

Since the mid-1960, populations of quail, rabbit and at least 18 other species, which have the same habitat requirements, have been in decline. Clean farming, more houses and nest predators such as possums and skunks have all contributed to the problem. Prescribed fire by natural resource managers, to clear cutover areas for tree planting and remove understory brush in older stands, is providing needed habitat for these species.

Fire is neither all good, nor all bad. Wildfire is a powerful enemy while a prescribed fire is an effective management tool. In the proper place, at the proper time, under the right conditions, and with the direction of a trained and experienced professional, fire can be a great and valuable tool for the landowner and natural resource manager.