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Goal: Sustain Our Nation’s Forests and Grasslands Oak Woodland Restoration Improves Forest Health

Daniel Crockett standing next to a 200 year-old white oak tree

Daniel Crockett, former employee on the London Ranger District, stands next to a 200 year-old white oak tree that was left following an oak woodland restoration treatment. Photo by Stacy Clark, USDA Forest Service.

Introduction

Conversion of a closed canopy oak forest to an oak woodland improved forest health according to a long-term study initiated on the Daniel Boone National Forest. Trees that remained following the restoration treatment had larger tree-ring growth and were more resilient to a recent drought compared to the trees that were removed.

Summary

Oak woodlands were historically more abundant and are preferred habitat for many herbaceous and wildlife species. Efforts are underway to restore these important ecosystems on national forest lands across the Forest Service Southern Region. Oak woodlands are dominated by widely-spaced, long-lived oak trees with a sparse understory and herbaceous ground flora. A large-scale study was initiated by the Southern Research Station in 2005 as part of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act to investigate if specific silvicultural treatments could improve forest health and resilience. An oak woodland treatment was tested as part of the study, and trees were selected that had healthy crowns and were in dominant canopy positions. Through examination of tree cores taken prior to the restoration treatment, the residual trees were shown to have improved growth across multiple decades and during drought periods prior to the restoration treatment, compared to trees that were removed. The results indicate that silviculture can be used to improve forest health and potentially increase resiliency to exotic invasive pests and drought.

Principal Investigator
Stacy Clark, Research Forester
RWU
4157 - Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management
Strategic Program Area
Resource Management and Use
Publication
Stand dynamics of an oak woodland forest and effects of a restoration treatment on forest health
CompassLive Story
Creating Oak Woodlands
Research Partner
Daniel Boone National Forest, National Forest System, Region 8