Synthesis and Guidelines for Using Fire in Oak Forests
Diffuse light under oak trees + Good Understory = Oak regeneration (Photo by William Kallesser)
(by Steve Kallesser, vice chair)
Every now and then USDA Forest Service publishes a technical report that is probably just a few pages short of being a full-length book. “The Fire-Oak Literature of Eastern North America: Synthesis and Guidelines” is such a report, but it is worth every page. As foresters well know, oak ecosystems are one of the most complicated to perpetuate over time and successfully regenerate. Thus, much of the report is dedicated to understanding the natural history of oak (including fire), adaptations to fire of oak stands and individual trees over time, and guidelines for using fire in oak ecosystems given certain objectives.
The prudent use of fire has the potential to bridge the divide between many aspects of the environmental community; however the report is very quick to point out that fire can have a damaging effect on oaks and oak regeneration if carried out incorrectly. It also points out that use of fire is not a one-time management tool, but rather an activity that must be repeated in order to control thin-barked, wind-dispersed species. The report is not a fast read, but is an important tool for serious foresters trying to understand the role of – and use of – fire in oak-dominated forests.