Making sense out of confusion: a review of fire-oak paper published in the past 50 yearsThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
The existing fire-oak literature is contradictory on whether fire helps or hinders the oak regeneration process. This confusion occurs because the fire-oak studies have been conducted under a wide variety of conditions. In this paper, we review the fire-oak literature by stand age class, season of burn, and number of burns to identify commonalities and trends. Overall, prescribed fire reduces the density of small diameter stems in the midstory, preferentially selects for oak reproduction and against mesophytic hardwood reproduction, equalizes the height growth rates between these two species groups, and promotes the establishment of new oak seedlings. Generally, prescribed burning provides the most benefit to oak reproduction when the fires occur during the growing season and several years after a substantial reduction in overstory density. Single fires conducted in closed-canopy stands have little impact in the short term, but multiple burns eventually do benefit oaks in the long term, especially when followed by a canopy disturbance