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Handbook for 30-year-old bottomland oak stands

Managing for timber, wildlife, or both

a group of young trees
The handbook uses and illustrates the Meadows hardwood tree classification system for use in southern hardwood forests. USDA Forest Service photo by James S. Meadows.

Southern floodplain forest landowners can benefit from a new USDA Forest Service handbook of silvicultural practices for oaks planted on former croplands.

The practical volume outlines the methods – and supporting science – for managing stands to produce high-quality oak sawtimber, improve wildlife habitat through acorn production, or an integrated approach for both timber and wildlife.

Researchers led by James (Steve) Meadows produced this synthesis specifically for the seven-state Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Bottomland hardwoods have been planted there on a million acres since USDA created the Conservation Reserve Program in 1985 and the Wetland Reserve Program in 1990. The programs encouraged farmers to switch economically marginal farmland from crop production to trees.

Many of these forests have reached the stage when silvicultural activity might be useful. The handbook targets even-aged stands, 15 to 40 years old, whether purely oak or mixed species.

Most of the timber production prescriptions in the handbook were modified from practices developed for natural stands, with the expectation that oak-dominated planted stands will respond similarly. The prescriptions for wildlife habitat and for integrated management for both timber and wildlife were developed specifically for this handbook.

The authors use a 25-year-old stand of Nuttall oaks in Mississippi to show how each of the three silvicultural prescriptions would affect stand structure and appearance.

The handbook grew out of discussions with bottomland foresters, particularly members of the Southern Hardwood Forest Research Group. They helped Meadows and his team ensure that the handbook was a practical resource for landowners and managers.

Read the full text of the handbook. For more information, email Steve Meadows at