Proactive restoration: planning, implementation, and early results of silvicultural strategies for increasing resilience against gypsy moth infestation in upland oak forests on the Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky
Determining targets in forest restoration is a complicated task that can be facilitated by cooperative partnerships. Too often restoration plans are implemented after adverse events that cause widespread tree mortality, such as drought or insect outbreaks, have occurred. Reactive management precludes the use of preemptive management techniques that can result in more effective restoration. The potential recognition and risks associated with a large-scale mortality event cultivated a proactive partnership among managers, stakeholders, and researchers on the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. This partnership resulted in the development of innovative proactive approaches to mitigate the negative impacts of threat of declining forest health, thus reducing the need for untested and expensive post-disturbance restorative operations. The partnership comprised four Research Work Units in the USDA Forest Service (including the Northern and Southern Research Stations), three universities (one land grant and two liberal arts), two natural resource state agencies, private logging contractors, an electrical utility, and National Forest system personnel at the district, forest supervisor, and Washington office levels. We tested forest management prescriptions designed to meet targets for future forest conditions. The goal of the silviculture treatments was to improve forest health and productivity to increase resilience to and/or avoidance of exotic invasive insect defoliation and oak decline. Treatments varied from high levels of disturbance to low levels of disturbance and ranged from even-aged regeneration treatments coupled with prescribed burning to thinning. Research assessed the alteration in species composition and stand structure, the projected regeneration outcomes and the costs and operational efficacy of mechanized forest operations used to implement the treatments. The relatively large scale of the study and diversity of treatments has afforded additional multidisciplinary research activities. Via partnership building and information and technology sharing, this project has been sustained for 10 years.