Can prescribed fires be used to promote the recruitment of white oak (Quercus alba) seedlings?This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Widespread oak replacement by mesophytic tree species, especially on good quality sites, has been occurring across the Eastern United States, because advance oak reproduction is severely limited by the development of heavy midstory and understory. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the development of heavy midstory and understory coincides with the implementation of a fire exclusion policy in the 1920s. Effective fire exclusion over the past 80 years has, therefore, contributed to the current problem of oak regeneration. Using prescribed fire to promote oak regeneration has been successful, but prior studies generally focused on how to use prescribed burning to enhance the relative competitiveness of advance oak regeneration. How does prescribed fire affect the recruitment of new oak seedlings? This important question has not been studied. The objectives of this study were to (1) investigate the effects of prescribed fires on white oak seedling survival and growth during the first growing season following a heavy mast year; and (2) to determine if white oak seedling survival and growth during the first growing season were affected by forest floor depth and understory light intensity.