Silviculture to restore oak savannas and woodlands
Variability in historic fire regimes in eastern North America resulted in an array of oak natural communities that were dominant across the region. In the past century, savannas and woodlands have become scarce because of conversion to agriculture or development of forest structure in the absence of fire. Their restoration is a primary goal for public agencies and conservation organizations. Although they can be restored with a long-term regimen of prescribed burning, a combination of fire, timber harvesting, and forest thinning produces the desired structure and composition more efficiently. Prescribed fire is useful for sustaining oak savannas and woodlands, but it must be used judiciously to minimize timber damage and decreases in value. Integrating fire within a modified shelterwood approach promotes competitive oak reproduction and is flexible enough to produce savannas or woodlands. Sustaining these communities requires the replacement of the overstory during periods of no fire.