Repeated fires, canopy gaps, and tree regeneration in Appalachian mixed oak forestsThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
We studied the response of tree regeneration to a sequence of several low-intensity prescribed fires followed by canopy gap formation in southern Ohio. Advance reproduction was recorded in 52 gaps (average size = four dead canopy trees) that formed following a white oak decline event, 13 years after fires began and 5 years after the gaps had formed. Of the 52 gaps, 28 were in three burned stands and 24 were in three unburned stands. Unburned gaps were being filled by shade-tolerant saplings and poles. In contrast, shade-tolerant saplings had been greatly reduced in the burned stands and larger oak advance reproduction (>2 feet tall) was much more abundant in burned gaps, as was sassafras. Advance reproduction of shade-tolerant species was equally abundant in burned and unburned gaps. Results indicate that the regeneration potential of oaks can be improved with multiple prescribed fires followed by the creation of canopy gaps.