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Oak Barrens Management and Understory Plant Recovery

This study focuses on the continuing, long-term restoration work at a large site in central Wisconsin, dominated by oak and jack pine and where understory diversity tends to be low (Pennsylvania sedge  often the dominant species). The site is typical and representative of former oak and pine barrens habitats throughout the Upper Midwest that have converted to closed-canopy forests following European settlement. Common restoration treatments include reintroduction of fire as well as canopy thinning and removal.

For a summary of the study's results and implications for management, you can view or download a PDF version of "Oak Barrens Management and Understory Plant Recovery."

Management Implications
  • Consider site history, the length of time since canopy closure, and the importance of the seed bank prior to treatment.
  • Locate a high quality reference site nearby on which to base recovery efforts.
  • Be prepared to develop a seed list and reseed if seed bank shows low diversity
  • Remove timber first. The best recovery of barrens species occurred with the greatest reduction in canopy cover along with prescribed fire.
  • More research is needed to fully understand the best approach.

The publication:

Jeffrey L. Ralston and James Cook. 2013. Impact of Prescribed Fire, Timber Removal, and the Seed Bank on Understory Plant Diversity and Canopy Cover in an Oak-Pine Barrens, Central Wisconsin, USA Ecological Restoration 31:395-411


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