Oak Regeneration in the Lake O'Donnell Watershed
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Previous studies have examined the effects of thinning and fire on oak regeneration, and changes in oak-hickory forests are related to shifts in the fire disturbance regime and shade cast by mid- and understory vegetation (Lorimer et al. 1994). The objectives of this study are to use thinning and fire treatments to create a new cohort of oak seedlings, reduce the exotic tree component in the stand (white pine), minimize residual damage with modern harvest equipment, and create a long-term research site for use by Sewanee students (7 to date). In 2006, the site (Compartment 6) was thinned to 80ft2/acre, leaving only large diameter oak and hickory on the site. In 2009, 134 permanent plots were set up throughout the 70 acre site to monitor regeneration and seedling physiology under forest, in small clearings, and in edge. Sassafras and oak dominated the smaller height classes with red maple dominating the taller classes. Deer browse ranged from 4-7%, and black gum was the preferred species. There was little change in Shannon or Evenness indices from 2006 (pre-treatment) to 2009. There were between 10-15,000 oak seedlings per acre across most of the site, indicating that oak was adequately regenerating after the thinning treatment. Three of the nine clearings will be burned in 2010 to compare regeneration with and without the presence of fire.
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