Forest of Doué, October 201915 November 2019
Stage 1 of the reforestation programme is continuing in the forest of Doué at Saint-Aubin-les-Forges. After having prepared and planted the 46,000 trees scheduled for this parcel in March 2019, the forest workers are now working on giving light and air to the young seedlings. Bracken* is cut by hand with a sickle, as at this stage of development this is the young oaks’ principal competition. Its leaves, or fronds, represent the biggest obstacle to the oaks’ development by blocking out the sunlight. This cutting back is also intended to limit the risk of the small plants being crushed, as in the autumn the dying bracken fronds can cover them and cause them to collapse under the weight of winter snow. However, with its fronds removed the bracken stems can have a useful role to play as tutors for the young oaks.
The foresters had taken the decision not to cut the fronds earlier, as they offered the plants valuable shade and protection from the blazing sun in June, July and August. Much of the forest vegetation suffered from the extreme conditions in the summer of 2019, which was characterized by a long period of drought and excessive heat. In the Bertranges, average recorded summer temperatures in 2019 were some 1.5°C to 2°C higher than the seasonal average 1981-2010, whilst surplus sunshine hours were around 20% greater than the seasonal average 1991-2010. The deficit in rainfall in the Bertranges was around 40% to 50% compared to the seasonal average for precipitation levels 1981-2010.
These variations in the climate have led the foresters to modify their practices and adopt methods of silviculture that make maximum use of the forest’s own natural processes.
* Bracken is made up of an underground stem, or rhizome, with a wide creeping rootstock, and large fronds which are the aerial part of the bracken’s vegetative growth.