DNR Q & A: Characteristics of old-growth forests

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources field staff, resource managers and the DNR Information Center staff answer many questions every day about natural resources topics. Here is one of them:

Q. What are the characteristics of old-growth forests, and where in Minnesota can you find them? 

A. While the characteristics can vary depending on the type of forest, old-growth forests are generally at least 120 years old, having never been significantly disturbed by logging, fire or storms during that time. These forests have a mix of young, old and middle aged trees, and many include very large ones that can measure 2 to 3 feet across. In addition, old-growth forests typically contain large dead standing trees, small gaps in the overhead canopy and lots of woody debris on the forest floor. Today, less than 4 percent of Minnesota’s old-growth forests remain, but there are some great examples protected in our state parks and scientific and natural areas. For example, Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods Scientific and Natural Area, Tettegouche State Park and Itasca State Park all contain stands of old-growth forest. More information and places to visit are available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/forests_types/oldgrowth.

— Jon Nelson, DNR forest policy and planning supervisor


For more information, call the DNR information line at 296-6157 or go to the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

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