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Evaluating Artificial White oak (Quercus alba) Regeneration Along Light and Competition Gradients

thesis
posted on 2024-04-24, 15:45 authored by Elias Bowers GaffneyElias Bowers Gaffney

For several decades, the ecological dominance of white oak (Quercus alba) has been declining throughout the species’ native range in eastern North America with failure to recruit new individuals into the overstory. White oak’s decline is concerning as the species is of great cultural, ecological, and economic value. Planting artificial regeneration is one approach to bolstering flagging natural white oak regeneration insufficient in vigor or quantity to supplant mature canopy white oak. Shelterwood harvests and artificial regeneration alone or in combination are frequently suggested to be an effective means of securing sufficient white oak regeneration in central hardwood understories. Because there is a much more comprehensive body of work examining northern red oak (Quercus rubra) than white oak artificial regeneration, managerial prescriptions for artificial regeneration of white oak are commonly generalized from northern red oak prescriptions. If the two species are silvically different, however, they should be managed differently to achieve maximum effectiveness of regenerative prescriptions.


I conducted both a silvicultural field trial and a more controlled shade and competition study to examine artificial white oak regeneration responses to light and competition gradients. In the silvicultural field trial, I tested the impacts of varied lengths of competition control, geographical seed source, and canopy cover on growth and survival of artificial white oak regeneration within an expanding shelterwood system. After three growing seasons, my results indicated that seedlings grow and survive at the greatest rates in areas of up to approximately 50% canopy closure, or conditions found in harvest gaps.

In a shade and competition study, I compared artificial northern red oak and white oak growth, morphology, and physiology responses to three light levels (10% or low, 30% or medium, and full sun or high) under the presence or absence of an invasive competitor (Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii)). After two years, my results indicated that medium light levels resulted in the greatest height and diameter growth as well as the greatest nonstructural carbohydrate amounts in both root and shoot organs of both species. Interestingly, my physiology results indicated that northern red oak seedlings displayed lower light compensation points and greater quantum yields than white oak seedlings. These traits potentially indicate greater shade tolerance of northern red oak than white oak. Further, white oak foliar nitrogen in shaded treatments, quantum yield, and light compensation points were impacted more severely by competition than equivalent northern red oak measures, indicating that white oak seedlings may not be as well equipped to handle invasive competition pressures. These results indicate that these two upland oak species are fundamentally different, and these differences should be considered when writing management prescriptions.

History

Degree Type

  • Master of Science

Department

  • Forestry and Natural Resources

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Michael R. Saunders

Additional Committee Member 2

Michael A. Jenkins

Additional Committee Member 3

Michael V. Mickelbart