Silvicultural Restoration of Urban Oak Woodlands in the Chicago Metro Region

        Silvicultural Restoration of Urban Oak Woodlands in the Chicago Metro Region

          Article summary

          Throughout their global range, oak-dominated ecosystems have undergone state changes in stand structure and composition. Land managers face an especially acute challenge in restoring oak ecosystems and promoting oak regeneration in urban–exurban areas, where high-intensity silvicultural treatments are often not feasible. To investigate low-intensity management alternatives which could be widely applied in urban–exurban forests, a large-scale adaptive management experiment was implemented in Lake County, IL, in 2012. Five canopy manipulation treatments of varying intensity, timing, and spatial aggregation were replicated across three study areas and oak seedlings were under-planted into treatment units following management. Responses of understory light environment, shrub and groundlayer plant communities, and survival and growth of underplanted oak seedlings were evaluated. Understory light availability, canopy openness, total groundlayer plant cover, and groundlayer species diversity all differed among treatments. However, although understory light availability was significantly increased by canopy manipulation, groundlayer communities and oak seedling survival and growth did not differ among treatments. High overall seedling survival rates suggest current conditions are amenable to oak regeneration, but long-term monitoring will be needed to assess the potential for seedlings to transition to the sapling and canopy layers. Early results demonstrate that canopy-focused silvicultural treatments can affect the understory light environment and, to some degree, groundlayer plant communities. However, underplanting of oak seedlings paired with subcanopy thinning may be sufficient to restore an oak seedling layer, and (when necessary or preferred) canopy manipulation could potentially be deferred until later in the restoration timeline to promote oak recruitment.

          In a nutshell, this resource offers:

          • A description of five different experimental approaches to regenerating oak ecosystems with low-intensity canopy interventions.
          • A methodology for monitoring seedling survival and growth after treatments.

          How to use this resource:

          • As possible restoration and management approaches to urban-exurban oak forests.
          • As a citation and example to justify more intensive forest management in urban, suburban, or exurban forests.

          Author: Jillian Pastick, Deborah Maurer, Robert Fahey

          Date published: 2020

          Point of contact: Robert Fahey, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment & Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, University of Connecticut, 

          Citation: Pastick, J.; Maurer, D.; Fahey, R. T. 2020. Testing the effect of restoration-focused silviculture on oak regeneration and groundlayer plant communities in urban-exurban oak woodlands. Restoration Ecology. Vol 29, issue 1.

          Resource is available online here.


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