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                         From the Michigan Society of American Foresters

Open Canopy Forest Types
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Although not considered commercial forest types, small areas of open forests consisting of scattered or clumped trees—known as savannas or barrens—also occur in Michigan.  They represent a transition between closed forests and prairies and are maintained by frequent disturbances, usually fire or grazing.  Although they occupied more than 2 million acres in the state in the early 1800s, savannas are the rarest forest types in Michigan today.  Because many savannas occupied fertile mesic habitats, they were long ago converted to agriculture.  Many wet-mesic savanna habitats were drained or grew into closed forests.  Urban development also claimed much of the area once occupied by open forests.  Savanna communities in xeric habitats unsuitable for farming grew into closed forests when fire was excluded or when farmland was abandoned.  Today state, federal, and private agencies are actively working to preserve or restore these fascinating communities, which can be classified as follows [see the field guide by Dickmann (2004), Michigan Forest Communities, for a complete description of these types]:

Although savanna-barren communities are not a source of timber (except during restoration), they are important habitats for wildlife and savanna-prairie plants (some of them threatened or endangered) and represent unique ecological communities that should be maintained or restored.


Kingston Stump Plains

Coastal Dune Barrens

Pine Barrens-Reindeer Lichen


Oak Savannah



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This website is maintained by Bill Cook, Michigan State University Extension Forest in the Upper Peninsula.  Comments, questions, and suggestions are gratefully accepted. 

Last update of this page was 9 January, 2014




This site is hosted by School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University.

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