Seedling response to initial oak woodland restoration treatments on the Ozark National ForestThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Over the last century, the range of oak woodland ecosystems has diminished as woodlands have become more closed-canopy forests. A century of fire suppression efforts has all but eliminated the frequent ground fires necessary to maintain the open canopy characteristics of oak woodland ecosystems. Restoration efforts are underway to return some of the closed-canopy forests to a more open woodland condition. A combination of two prescribed burns followed by a noncommercial thinning treatment (largely thin-to-waste) was used on three sites in the Boston Mountains of Arkansas within the Ozark National Forest between 1999 and 2003. The development of regeneration was assessed 3 years following the thinning treatment. Relative to untreated control sites, the restoration treatment greatly enhanced the development of reproduction. Total stem density was greatest on the upper slope positions of treated sites. Oak reproduction was greatest on the upper slopes on both treated and control sites. For all species combined and oak-only reproduction, the density of stems ≥4 feet was much greater on treated sites. The rapid response of reproduction to the combined burning and thinning treatment will necessitate continued prescribed burning to maintain the open-canopy structural characteristics of oak woodlands. Almost 350 stems acre-1 of oak species are present in the ≥4-foot size class, which is likely adequate to maintain an oak presence in these ecosystems.