Protecting Aspens at Indian Ford Meadow Preserve

May 06, 2021
The Land Trust recently created several protected areas for aspens at Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Why is the Land Trust protecting these trees?

 

The Land Trust recently created several protected areas for aspens at Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Several small fences (or cages) are being used to protect young aspens from being heavily browsed by deer and elk.

Volunteers create enclosures to protect aspens at Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Photo: Land Trust.
Volunteers create enclosures to protect aspens at Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Photo: Land Trust.
Why is the Land Trust protecting aspens? Aspen stands have become exceedingly rare in Oregon due to fire suppression, conifers expanding and overtaking aspen groves, climate change, and overbrowsing by deer and elk. Even though aspens are a natural food source for these creatures, heavy browsing stunts the aspen’s growth and inhibits these new aspens from replacing older aspen trees.

It's important for these new aspens to replace older aspen trees because they grow in colonies, sharing the same genetic material and spreading underground via rhizomes. Their root systems can be thousands of years old, even though the trees themselves only live 50-150 years. Without the ability to have younger trees replace the older trees, the colony will eventually die.

By protecting these young aspen, the Land Trust is giving these trees the opportunity to grow strong, mature, and keep the aspen colony going. The results are clear from other aspen enclosures we have previously set up at Indian Ford Meadow Preserve: trees within the enclosures were significantly taller and healthier than those nearby with no protection.

Aspens are an important part of Central Oregon—they are fantastic bird habitat for both resident and migratory birds. Two species that are often spotted in aspen groves are red-naped sapsuckers and downy woodpeckers. Aspen stands are also considered excellent wildlife habitat. We look forward to seeing these aspen stands grow strong and remain an important part of the landscape.

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