The role of herbicides for enhancing productivity and conserving land for biodiversity in North America
Herbicide technology has evolved with forest management in North America over the past 60 years and has become an integral part of modern forestry practice. Forest managers have prescribed herbicides to increase reforestation success and long-term timber yields. Wildlife managers and others interested in conserving biodi- versity, however, have often viewed herbicide use as conflicting with their objectives. Do herbicides increase forest productivity, and are they compatible with the objectives of wildlife management and biodiversity conservation? Results from the longest-term studies (10-30 years) in North America suggest that the range of wood volume yield gains from effectively managing forest vegetation (primarily using herbicides) is 30-450% in Pacific Northwest forests, 10-150% in the southeastern forests, and 50-450% in northern forests. Most of the 23 studies examined indicated 30-300% increases in wood volume yield for major commercial tree species and that gains were relatively consistent for a wide range of site conditions. Meeting future demands for wildlife habitat and biodiversity conservation will require that society's growing demand for wood be satisfied on a shrinking forestland base. Increased fiber yields from intensively managed plantations, which include the use of herbicides, will be a crucial part of the solution. If herbicides are properly used, current research indicates that the negative effects on wildlife usually are short-term and that herbicides can be used to meet wildlife habitat objectives.