Upland oak ecology and management
Document Type: Conference Paper
Author(s): D. H. Van Lear
Editor(s): M. A. Spetich
Publication Year: 2004

Cataloging Information

  • agriculture
  • Arkansas
  • bark
  • clearcutting
  • competition
  • cover type conversion
  • disturbance
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • European settlement
  • evolution
  • fire adaptations (plants)
  • fire exclusion
  • fire frequency
  • fire regimes
  • forest management
  • grazing
  • hardwood forests
  • herbicides
  • histories
  • human caused fires
  • land use
  • landscape ecology
  • light
  • light burning
  • lightning
  • lightning caused fires
  • Liriodendron
  • Liriodendron tulipifera
  • logging
  • Missouri
  • Native Americans
  • Oklahoma
  • overstory
  • Ozarks
  • prairies
  • Quercus
  • regeneration
  • resprouting
  • savannas
  • season of fire
  • seedlings
  • shelterwood
  • succession
  • surface fires
  • Tennessee
  • understory vegetation
  • wildlife food habits
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: August 9, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 42582
Tall Timbers Record Number: 17683
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: A13.88:SRS-73
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Of the many disturbance factors that shaped hardwood forests in the eastern United States, fire was perhaps the most important. Fires ignited by Native Americans and lightning played a dominant role in sustaining oak (Quercus spp.) forests throughout the Central Hardwood Region. Prior to logging at the turn of the last century, fires in the region were mostly light to moderate intensity surface fires. Exclusion of frequent surface fires for over 70 years has changed the character of these previously open forests and contributed to the gradual invasion of oak stands by shade-tolerant, fire-intolerant species. Although upland oaks are more easily maintained on poor quality sites, sustaining oak species on good quality sites is difficult. When canopy-gap type disturbances occur on good sites, oak regeneration is not competitive enough to grow into the mid- and upper canopy. If there is a major disturbance in the overstory of these mixed stands, pioneer shade-intolerant species such as yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) out-compete oak regeneration and dominate the next stand. Periodic underburning in mixed hardwood stands creates conditions similar to those prior to fire exclusion and are conducive to oak regeneration and establishment. A shelterwood-burn technique has recently been developed that can be used on productive upland sites to enhance the competitive position of oaks in the advance regeneration pool. Oaks are well adapted to tolerate fire and benefit from fire at the expense of their competitors. Foresters can use prescribed fire where feasible to sustain oaks in a variety of ecosystem conditions ranging from fully stocked timber stands to open oak woodlands. From the Conclusions (p. 69)...'Forest managers will need to use prescribed fire or a fire surrogate (herbicide) to sustain oaks on good quality sites. The land-use history of the Central Hardwood Region and the fire ecology of oaks tell us that fire and oak forests go hand in hand. If we study our history (as recorded both by man and by nature) carefully, we will understand that the region has been a managed landscape for millennia and fire was the primary management tool. It played a major role in sustaining oak forests and will need to be used now and in the future to favor oaks.'

Van Lear, D. H. 2004. Upland oak ecology and management, in Spetich, M. A., Upland oak ecology symposium: history, current conditions, and sustainability. Fayetteville, AK. USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station,Asheville, NC. p. 65-71,General Technical Report SRS-73.