Past Fire and Present-day Mesophication: Implications for Oak Ecosystem Restoration Webinar
The Great Lakes Fire Science Consortium recommends a webinar co-hosted by the Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium and the Society for Ecological Restoration-Medwest/Great Lakes Chapter. Gregory Nowacki, PhD, Regional Ecologist, Acting Soil Program Leader, Eastern Region, United States Forest Service, will present Past Fire and Present-day Mesophication: Implications for Oak Ecosystem Restoration. Click here to learn more and register.
Oak is a “keystone species” within the Eastern Deciduous Forest and its long-term success, in terms of abundance and wide distribution, has been explicitly linked to disturbance, specifically fire. Oak is an opportunistic species that readily takes advantage of forest disturbance by quickly colonizing and exploiting openings. The disturbance regime that historically supported oak (facilitated greatly by Native American burning) changed upon European arrival. Although early forest exploitation initially buoyed oak dominance through cutting and burning, near-universal fire suppression that followed has had negative effects. Under current high densities, oak performs poorly and is being replaced by shade-tolerant, fire-sensitive species such as sugar and red maple, basswood, and beech. As shade-tolerant competitors become entrenched, opportunities for oak regeneration rapidly degrade with increasing shade and cool and moist understory/fuel bed conditions that greatly retard fire—a positive feedback mechanism coined “mesophication.” A combination of thinning and burning is recommended to restore imperiled oak ecosystems.