"They're dynamic and they change with the times," said Aaron Weiskill, PHD, UMaine Forestry Department.
That's the way researchers at the University of Maine describe hardwood forests in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. For 30 years they have been studying saplings that will become the future forests.
Weiskill added "Basically over the last three decades we have seen an increase of beech occurrence.basically it's occurring in places it hadn't occurred in prior inventories and it's not expanding it's range but it's out competing these other three species... The red maple, the sugar maple and the birch species."
Researchers said the change has an impact on wildlife and the economy. "Obviously sugar maple and the paper birch, yellow birch have high commercial value whereas red maple has some commercial. It has pulp for paper of firewood or basically fuel," said Weiskill. "The issue being that basically beech can be difficult to manage. Beech tends to grow in thick areas. It doesn't reach commercial size."
University researchers said a number of factors contribute to the increase in beech trees. Weiskill stated "Past management practices. We found some association with climate so basically warmer temperatures and higher precipitation seem to favor beech or these other species."
Researchers said Maine seems to be less impacted than the other New England states but it is still happening. Weiskill concluded "Unfortunately there is no real silver bullet for controlling beech. Once you have beech established it's really a challenge."