Oak regeneration response to moderate and heavy traffic under mechanical harvesting in an oak-hickory forest on the Cumberland platueauThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Forest harvest operations can cause ground disturbances that negatively impact regeneration. On the Cumberland Plateau, managers must often rely on very small (less than a foot in height) oak advanced reproduction that is susceptible to disturbance by harvesting equipment. Furthermore, sites on the plateau top are often harvested when conditions are too wet to permit operations elsewhere, and the potential for small seedlings to be pulled from the ground may be heightened because of greater soil moisture. This study was designed to assess the effect of heavy and moderate equipment traffic on small oak advance reproduction under a clearcutting prescription. A feller-buncher and grapple skidding were used to harvest sites under “free access,” resulting in heavy traffic on the sites, or under “strip access,” with moderate site traffic. Five hundred oak seedlings were permanently tagged preharvest; species, height, and basal diameter were recorded and have been remeasured 3 years postharvest. Fifty-three percent of the tagged seedlings survived, and the survival rate for seedlings exposed to moderate traffic did not differ from that for seedlings exposed to heavy traffic. No evidence of seedlings being pulled out of the ground was observed. After three growing seasons, there is no significant difference in site disturbance between the two treatments. Initial assessment of the impact to the regeneration suggests that little damage was incurred under heavy equipment traffic.