Indiana has about 4.7 million acres of forest land that is teeming with diversity! Our forests contain more than 85 different tree species and over 100 other plant species that help support the ecosystem. Forest diversity is essential for maintaining a healthy ecosystem, since every species is intertwined. The high level of biodiversity in our forests also leads to a higher output of ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are all of the benefits, both explicit and not, that we receive from the forests. In Indiana those services include temperature moderation seen from vegetation, soil maintenance from the root systems, water conservation and filtration from the plants and soil, and pollinator support from flowering plants.
One of the most obvious services we get from forests though is simply wood itself. About 85% of Indiana's forests are privately owned (that's about 3.8 million acres) and those land owners help support the state's large forestry and timber industry. Forest products manufacturing is a $3 billion a year industry in our state and employs more than 50,000 Hoosiers. That hard work pays off too: Indiana ranks 9th nationally in total lumber production and third in hardwood lumber production!
Harvesting forest products is a very different job than it used to be though. Thats because we know now that if we don't apply conservation practices we could easily lose our forests. Indiana is estimated to have been 85% forestland before modern settlements developed. Forests were cleared to create agricultural land, roads, towns, and to make and sell wood products. By the year 1900 deforestation had left only 8% of Indiana’s land forested. Realizing that we were putting a vital resource at risk, the industry changed over time to ensure that we were protecting our forests. Now, about 20% of Indiana is forested and that number is rising! Our forests are growing by volume more than 3 times as fast as they are being lost.
We still have to work to conserve our forests though. Indiana Forests face threats like disease, wood-boring insects, and invasive species. Of the more than 2,000 species of vascular plants in Indiana, roughly 25 percent are non-native to Indiana and the Department of Natural Resources identifies around 25 of those as invasive species of concern for Indiana woodlands. Invasive species like Asian Bush Honeyscukle for example can reduce the chance of survival among tree saplings. Invasives can even disrupt the forest’s entire ecosystem by introducing species that do not belong in the forest's network. Overtime invasive species can spread until they threaten the ecosystem services that we rely on.
The State of Indiana’s Division of Forestry and the Natural Resource Conservation Service offers a variety of programs to promote forest conservation and health:
NRCS Resources: Click Here
IN DNR Resources: Click Here
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