White oak (Quercus alba) response to thinning and prescribed fire in northcentral Alabama mixed pine hardwood forests
Strong white oak sawtimber markets, partially attributed to the stave and cooperage industries, are encouraging forest managers to re-examine silvicultural practices for white oak (Quercus alba). We examined recruitment and retention of white oak in mixed oak–pine stands on the William B. Bankhead National Forest in northcentral Alabama. Stands were subjected to three thinning levels (residual basal areas of 75 ft2 /ac, 50 ft2 /ac, and no thinning) and three fire frequencies (dormant season burns of none, one, three fires) in a factorial design. Both thinning treatments reduced overstory white oak tree densities, and fire had no effect on densities. For all reproduction height classes, regardless of thinning treatment, three prescribed burns increased white oak densities; thinned and burned stands had larger white oak seedling sprouts than those thinned with no burn. However, white oak reproduction height was primarily less than 2 ft tall, and seedlings larger than 4 ft tall were reduced. Thinning with one fire resulted in the highest densities of large white oak reproduction (4 ft tall up to 1.5 in. dbh). Red maple reproduction was the dominant competitor in all treatments and is positioned to dominate the reproduction cohort without additional tending treatments.