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Goal: Deliver Benefits to the Public Handbook for young bottomland oak stands: Managing for timber, wildlife, or both

Over the past thirty years, an estimated one million acres of farms and fields were converted to forests across the seven-state region of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. The landowners participated in USDA Conservation Reserve and Wetlands Reserve Programs, and most of the acreage is low elevation wetlands or bottomlands. Landowners and managers of these young oak forests have a new resource: a handbook from the Southern Research Station that outlines the methods—and supporting science—for managing for timber, wildlife, or both.

Tall water oak trees growing in rows
Water oak (Quercus nigra) stand on Malmaison Wildlife Management Area in Mississippi. USDA Forest Service photo by Emile Gardiner.

This handbook presents a number of practical silvicultural options for landowners and forest managers of young, bottomland oak-dominated forests. Each option is designed specifically to achieve common landowner objectives:

  • Production of high-quality oak sawtimber;
  • Creation of improved wildlife habitat, primarily through improved acorn production; and
  • Integrated management for both oak sawtimber and improved wildlife habitat as multiple objectives of roughly equal importance and priority.

The handbook covers patterns of stand development and acorn production in young, oak-dominated stands; silvicultural tools used for site, tree, and stand assessment and for acorn crop evaluation; decision-making; types of intermediate stand practices and their objectives; possible detrimental effects of intermediate cuttings; important factors to consider in the development of silvicultural options; systematic cutting; and silvicultural options for attaining each of the three landowner objectives.

To illustrate differences and similarities among the silvicultural options, the authors present an example based on data collected from an existing oak stand. Silvicultural prescriptions and the resulting structure and appearance of the residual stands are compared for each of the three management objectives.