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Silvicultural options for open forest management in eastern North America

Formally Refereed
Authors: Don C. Bragg, Brice B. Hanberry, Todd F. Hutchinson, Steven B. Jack, John M. Kabrick
Year: 2020
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Southern Research Station
Source: Forest Ecology and Management


Fire-sustained open oak and pine forests were once widespread across eastern North America, but are now comparatively scarce. To regain the goods and services of these open forests, managers are increasingly looking to restore them with the silvicultural systems and tools best suited to meet their objectives. Hence, we syn-thesized a number of research efforts and case studies from open pine, mixedwood, and oak-dominated forests in eastern North America to demonstrate the silvicultural options available and recognized knowledge gaps. The silvicultural treatment options and tools available are very similar to those applied in closed-canopy forests, even if the objectives are fundamentally different. For instance, while conventional practices in naturally regenerated forests concentrate on managing closed tree canopies to increase periodic yields and encourage new tree re-cruitment, open forest silviculture focuses on the maintenance of a vertically simple and understocked canopy to facilitate a robust herbaceous groundflora and limit woody plant regeneration. To achieve and sustain this understocked condition, open forest management applies multiple tools (e.g., prescribed fire, periodic harvests or deadenings, and herbicide use and planting if and when needed) along with other understory enhancement and maintenance treatments. This review demonstrates that while we have learned much about open forest silviculture over the decades, many information gaps and challenges for managers remain.


Southern pine, Prescribed fire, Groundflora, Oak, Timber management, Restoration, Wildlife management


Bragg, Don C.; Hanberry, Brice B.; Hutchinson, Todd F.; Jack, Steven B.; Kabrick, John M. 2020. Silvicultural options for open forest management in eastern North America. Forest Ecology and Management. 474: 118383. 14 p.