Approaches to restoration of oak forests on farmed lowlands of the Mississippi River and its tributaries
The lowlands associated with the Mississippi River and its tributaries historically supported extensive broadleaf forests that were particularly rich in oak (Quercus spp.) species. Beginning in the 1700s, deforestation for agriculture substantially reduced the extent of the original forest, and fragmented the remainder into small parcels. More recently, declines in agricultural commodity prices, along with increased awareness of conservation have provided opportunities to restore a substantial base of agriculture land to broadleaf forests. While afforestation of former agricultural land began over 40 years ago in the region, organized, large-scale afforestation efforts have peaked over the last 15 years with increased interest in forest sustainability, biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration, and water quality. Large-scale implementation of afforestation to restore broadleaf forest cover has raised many issues particular to oak species biology and ecology that impact the restoration process. The purpose of this manuscript is to present knowledge gained from research and experience with oak forest afforestation in the eastern United States as a model for developing approaches to initiate oak forest restoration in other regions.