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There are currently two research projects being supported by Masswood that examine the practice of highgrading. A highgraded hardwood stand in southern New England can be defined as:

A stand in which the most valuable trees were removed and the least valuable trees left. Economic value is based upon size, form, and species. As a general rule, larger trees and straight, excurrent forms translate to higher value. The most valuable species of this region now include northern red oak (Quercus rubra), black oak (Quercus velutina), black cherry (Prunus serotina), white ash (Fraxinus americana), and sugar maple (Acer saccharum), although the straight, clear bole of almost any hardwood species can be very valuable. Therefore, highgraded hardwood stands often contain an abundance of poorly formed overstory stems and an understory of limited potential value.

The first of the two studies examines and compares silvicultural prescriptions for rehabilitating, or maximizing, the timber value of highgraded stands in the fastest or the most cost efficient manner. This study compares three silvicultural treatments, shelterwood, overstory removal, improvement cut/thinning, and an uncut control in an effort to weigh the costs and benefits of the different approaches. The 40 acre site was divided into eight equal compartments (1 set of replicates), measured, marked according to the different prescriptions, and harvested in 2000. The first of the follow-up data sets will be collected in approximately five years.

The second of the two studies compares stands that were highgraded with stands that received crown thinnings according to crop tree guidelines. A combination of chronosequences and reconstruction techniques is being used to examine some of the effects of highgrading on biological and economic productivity and highgrading's effect on residual stand dynamics. Stem volume and growth rates, leaf area index, and stand structural characteristics are being measured to estimate aboveground net primary productivity and growth efficiency. Current economic value of the stands is being measured, as is the potential economic productivity.



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