If you have spent any length of time exploring Maine’s forests, you have probably encountered a dense thicket of young trees. These are the kind of areas that can induce tears on a camping trip when you have no choice but to push through them carrying forty pounds of equipment and a canoe.
They also take the form of dark evergreen stands with an impenetrable canopy: the type of forest kids flock to thanks to the abundant opportunities they supply in playing hide-and-go-seek, or the endless hours of fun provided by pushing down dead trees while yelling, “Timber!” Tears and joy aside, it’s an exceedingly common sight in our woods, and it creates a paradox for foresters.
Forestry has the unique problem of growing products that actively try to outcompete and ultimately kill each other. The dense patches you see in the woods are, for the trees, a stagnant environment devoid of light necessary for expedient growth. Left unhindered, such thickets ultimately give way to dark stands full of dead stems, the losers in the battle for survival.