Visualize a tree. It grows larger over time. If surrounded by many other large trees, the branches will slowly converge.
This reduces the amount of sunlight hitting the ground. If left in such a condition for too long without disturbance, important tree species cannot regenerate.
“Forest management is intentional, planned disturbance,” Goerndt said. “When forestland is managed for multiple objectives, we can effectively grow better trees and companion crops and maintain diverse habitats.”
Designing the future of forests
Goerndt specializes in forest biometrics focusing on measurements and data analysis for forests.
This now incorporates the latest technology, such as remote sensing, satellites, drones and spectral imagery. Using these tools, he collects data from forest landscapes with help from geospatial science experts, like Dr. Toby Dogwiler.
“Technology gives us the opportunity to get data for very large areas more efficiently than we ever could with boots on the ground,” Goerndt said. “As our ecological challenges mount, we must look to the trees as a critical component for addressing landscape degradation, pollution, climate change and alternative fuels.”
Reaching results through collaboration
The study will showcase exactly how much more productive an area of land can be if managed for multiple crops and products.
“We’re creating the capacity to do years of long-term research,” he said.
Using their research sites, the team will compare cool-season and warm-season forage growth.
They will also assess the economic and ecological benefits of intentionally converting either fields or forests into silvopasture land, which means managing land to integrate trees with livestock grazing.