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We put science into practice to reforest the Southern Region’s forests

For more than 30 years, the USDA Forest Service and the University of Tennessee have worked together to restore oaks. The partnership has resulted in guidelines, trainings, and a wealth of knowledge that ultimately improves forest health and resilience while providing timber and non-timber benefits for southern forests.

Researchers stand at a long table clipping the tangled roots of oak seedlings.
Marcus Warwell (foreground), Regional Geneticist with the Southern Region, clips roots to prepare northern red oak seedlings to be planted in the Southern Region. Southern Region silviculturists (background) select the highest quality seedling for planting based on research expertise provided by the SRS. USDA Forest Service photo by Stacy Clark.

A 32-year-old collaboration between the Forest Service Southern Region, the Southern Research Station, and The University of Tennessee has reshaped hardwood restoration in the southern U.S.

Historically, oak plantings largely failed. Today, however successes are more frequent because of the nursery and field research conducted by the collaborative team and led by Stacy Clark, a research forester with the Southern Research Station.

The collaboration makes the most of each partner’s resources. Clark provides practical research information, training, and expertise. The Southern Region grows locally-adapted, improved northern red oak seedlings grown from acorns collected at a Forest Service orchard that the University of Tennessee manages. Seedling are grown to their highest quality possible in a commercial state nursery, and then planted onto national forests using the most advanced science available from the collaborative research program.

The team has written guidelines on acorn collections and planting considerations that are specific for the Southern Region but could also be adapted to meet myriad management customers. The SRS has trained National Advanced Silviculture Program students in national and local programs in the Southern and Northern Regions and developed recertification workshops.

Ultimately, this research ensures oaks are part of forests for the future, providing wood products, improved ecosystem health and resilience, and socio-economic benefits.

Principal Investigator
Stacy Clark, Research Forester
4157 - Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management
Guidelines for securing and planting upland oak seedlings in the Southern Region
CompassLive Article
Planting oaks: A recipe for success
Research Partners
Barbara Crane, Southern Region (retired)
Jason Rodrigue, Southern Region
Marcus Warwell, Southern Region
External Partner
Scott Schlarbaum, University of Tennessee