Publication Details

Oak composition and structure in the eastern United States

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Year Published

2006

Publication

In: Dickinson, Matthew B., ed. 2006. Fire in eastern oak forests: delivering science to land managers, proceedings of a conference; 2005 November 15-17; Columbus, OH. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-1. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 49-61.

Abstract

Although oak species currently occupy a dominant position in most eastern deciduous forests, particularly on upland sites, many scientists and managers have expressed concern about the future of this genus in the absence of the disturbance patterns that facilitated its establishment up to now. Reductions in timber harvesting and fire in particular may give the advantage to competitors such as maples. Using data from the Forest Inventory and Analysis program of the U. S. Forest Service, we looked at current data and temporal trends to gauge the trajectory of oak forests in the Eastern United States. The area of the two upland oak groups?oak-hickory and oak-pine?covered 160.3 million acres or 43 percent of eastern timberland. The oak volume per acre of timberland has increased over the last four to five decades. Yet, we are seeing a decline in the proportion of total timberland with at least 20 ft2ac-1 of select red or white oaks (the ?select oak? stands). While the select oak basal-area component within these stands increased slightly, it represents a decreasing proportion of the total basal area in the stand, suggesting that associated species are increasing in their share of the overstory. While the total number of seedlings/saplings in the understory of stands with select red or white oak5 basal area greater than 20 ft2 ac-1 has been increasing, the proportion of all seedlings/saplings that are select white oak seedlings/saplings has been declining over the last 20 or so years. The declining proportion of regeneration represented by oak species suggests a future eastern U. S. forest with substantially reduced proportions of oaks in the overstory. Reintroducing disturbances such as fire is essential to maintain oaks? overstory presence and associated biological and economic benefits.

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Citation

Moser, W. Keith; Hansen, Mark; McWilliams, Will; Sheffield, Ray. 2006. Oak composition and structure in the eastern United States. In: Dickinson, Matthew B., ed. 2006. Fire in eastern oak forests: delivering science to land managers, proceedings of a conference; 2005 November 15-17; Columbus, OH. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-1. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 49-61.

Last updated on: November 14, 2006