Stand dynamics 12 years after prescribed fire to restore degraded upland oak-hickory forests in the Ozark-StThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Prescribed fire, when applied at an appropriate frequency and intensity, has proven to be an effective management tool to promote and enhance upland oak (Quercus spp.) regeneration, particularly on xeric sites. Relatively thick protective basal bark, strong resprouting capabilities, and flammable leaf litter are fire-adapted traits that more fire-tolerant upland oaks possess, providing a competitive advantage over more fire-sensitive, mesophytic species (for example, red maple, Acer rubrum; blackgum, Nyssa sylvatica; black cherry, Prunus serotina). This study quantified the effects of prescribed fire on long-term changes in overstory (≥4.5 inches diameter at breast height, d.b.h.), sapling (0.6 to less than 4.5 inches d.b.h.), and seedling (>6 inches height, <0.6 inches d.b.h.) dynamics 12 years after burn treatments. Fires were implemented across three sites that experienced significant red oak (Section Lobatae) overstory mortality following severe drought (1998 to 2000) and a red oak borer (Enapalodes rufulus) outbreak (early 2000s). Twelve years after a single-dormant season burn, overstory basal area had been reduced across all sites with red oaks comprising the majority of mortality. In the no-burn control, an increase in overstory basal area was observed due to non-oak ingrowth. Densities of oak and non-oak seedlings increased 2 years post-dormant burn, but then began to decline as a result of these seedlings growing into saplings or being outcompeted. After 12 years, oak and non-oak sapling densities had rebounded, substantially, over pre-burn levels with red and white oaks (Section Quercus) present in greater densities and at competitive heights, positioning them to be recruited into the overstory.