The hunt for good oak regeneration sites
Oak-hickory forests in the eastern U.S. provide a host of ecosystem services and are extremely valuable for wildlife and timber; and, they are generally more tolerant of weather extremes under a changing climate. These forests are, however, undergoing a severe decline in prominence throughout the region, yielding to more mesic and shade-tolerant, largely maple-dominated forests. Two decades of research in Ohio have shown that opening the canopy through prescribed fire and thinning can promote oak and hickory regeneration. Forest Service researchers developed a methodology to target areas across a 17-county region (approximately 22,000 square kilometers, or 13,670 square miles) that may be more receptive, and thus more cost effective, to successful regeneration following silvicultural treatment. The GIS model is based primarily on the topography and uses slope aspect, angle, and position, and a topographic position index to generate six classes of land-type phases: ridge, southwest upper and lower slopes, northeast upper and lower slopes, and bottomland. The first three were combined into the dry oak forestland-type that has a higher probability of being restored with silviculture, provided some understory oak-hickory seedlings and saplings are present. To determine whether sufficient stocking is present for adequate regeneration, scientists used small plots distributed among the stands of interest to determine “oakiness” in the overstory and understory. Managers on the Wayne National Forest in Ohio are using the methodology as they begin revison of their Forest Plan.
Forest Service Partners