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Oak Regeneration in the Southern Appalachians: Potential, Problems, and Possible Solutions

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Despite the large volumes written about "oak regeneration problems" on mesic sites, very little has been presented on the extent of regional variation in oak regeneration. In this review article, we examine several important facets of oak regeneration for the Southern Appalachian region. We conclude that: (1) the amount of reproduction (seedlings and/or sprouts) is seldom a limiting factor because these oak forests have an average advance regeneration density of more than 9000/ha; (2) about 75% of all oak stems sprout after harvesting, which; (3) makes stump sprouts a major source of oak regeneration and a more important component than in the Midwest; (4) harvesting usually leads to an increase in the number of oak seedlings on a site (mean density for the first 3 yr equals 15,750/ha); (5) on sites of SI50 = 17-19m, oaks typically make up 25-40% of the canopy 2-3 decades after a harvest; (6) on sites of SI > 20m, clearcutting leads to very low levels (~10%) of oak representation in the subsequent forest, whereas a shelterwood harvest will result in 25-30% oak abundance; and (7) a harvest of an oak-dominated forest, without any other treatments, will lead to a 50-70% decline in oak. These results suggest that there is ample potential to regenerate current oak forests to oak, but new trials are needed with more species and on a greater range of sites. Increasing the size of the advance regeneration and maximizing stump sprouting are two ways to increase the amount of oak after harvest. However, regeneration cuts by themselves will not assure maintenance of the oak component; several treatments that have shown promise--midstory manipulation, fire, and weeding--are recommended for further study. South. J. Appl. For. 22(1):11-18.
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Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Forestry, Virginia Polytechnic Inst. and State University, Blacksburg VA 24061

Publication date: 1998-02-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Southern Journal of Applied Forestry covers an area from Virginia and Kentucky south to as far west as Oklahoma and east Texas.
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