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Nipissing University Red Oak Studies - 130-506-1

Description: Red Oak is a high-value timber species and an important ecological component of Great Lakes–St. Lawrence forest communities. Historically, establishment of red oak forest stands has occurred in association with periodic disturbance (e.g. fire) or chronic stress (e.g. low soil moisture and nutrients).  These disturbances create gaps in the forest canopy allowing sufficient light to reach red oak saplings on the forest floor, while stressful growing conditions reduce or eliminate the negative impact of competing species. However, in the absence of major disturbances or environmental stress, stands of red oak throughout northeastern North America are not self-replacing, and become converted to stands of shade-tolerant species such as sugar maple. Current harvest practices for red oak attempt to simulate its natural regeneration requirements by combining shelterwood harvesting to create canopy gaps for sapling recruitment and understorey vegetation control to eliminate competing species. However, operational regeneration of red oak is difficult because of significant losses to seed predation, and poor growth of saplings due to herbivory and competition with other species. The objective of this research is to determine the role of major abiotic (e.g. light, temperature, nutrients) and biotic (e.g. competition, herbivory) factors that limit red oak regeneration and to identify effective strategies to overcome these limitations and promote the establishment of vigorous and self-sustaining red oak stands.

In July 2004, an extensive stand of red oak was harvested using a uniform shelterwood system in Phelps Township, near North Bay, Ontario. Within the stand, different portions were harvested to 50 and 70% canopy closure. Some group selection harvesting was conducted, leaving several complete canopy openings that range in diameter from 24 to 36 m. Unharvested areas were also retained, which provide controls to be compared against the different harvest treatments. Natural red oak seedlings are abundant throughout the stand, and a large number of nursery stock red oak seedlings have been planted and tagged. This situation presents an ideal opportunity to establish a large, detailed field experiment on red oak regeneration under various silvicultural treatments.

As part of the comprehensive red oak regeneration project initiated in Phelps Township by the Forestry Research Partnership, this two-year Industrial Research and Development Fellowship will support a series of studies that investigate the establishment and growth of red oak under the full range of environmental conditions that can occur after harvesting. Individual field studies will focus on determining how the establishment and growth of red oak seedlings and stump sprouts are affected by different environmental conditions (e.g. light, temperature) produced by the harvest treatments, and the influence of these conditions on the response of red oak seedlings and sprouts to competition with other species (e.g. sugar maple, red maple) and herbivory. These field studies will be complemented by carefully controlled experiments conducted in the Plant Growth Facility at Nipissing University, in association with the Plant Ecology Research Lab. In these experiments, each of the environmental and biotic factors will be isolated and its direct influence on red oak establishment and growth determined.

Ultimately, this research program will expand our knowledge of the ecology of red oak regeneration in the Nipissing region, and provide forest resource managers with the information necessary to effectively promote the use of this important resource in a sustainable manner. 

 

The Project Team: Jeff Dech and Peter Nosko, Nipissing University

 

Presentations:

Competitive Relations of Red Oak and Sugar Maple Seedlings in Oak and Pine Soils

Management of Red Oak Stump Sprouts in the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Forest

 

Status Reports:

 Status Report (2007-2008)

Project Work Report (2007-2008)

Financial Summary (2008-2009)

Project Activity Report

Status Report (2010-2011)

 

For Additional Information Contact:

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