Thinning pine plantations to reestablish oak openings species in northwestern Ohio

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Environmental Management





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Globally the area in forest plantations is rising by 2% annually, increasing the importance of plantations for production of human goods and services and for ecological functions such as carbon storage and biodiversity conservation. Specifically in the Great Lakes states and provinces of Midwestern North America, thousands of hectares of pine plantations were established in the early and mid-1900s to revegetate abandoned agricultural fields that had replaced mixed-species forests and oak–prairie ecosystems. Plantation establishment also was intended to bolster the timber base. Management priorities have shifted, with many resource managers currently seeking to manage existing plantations for promoting mixed-species ecosystems. The purpose of this study was to assess plant succession and the reestablishment of oak savanna and prairie species after thinning 14 plantations of Pinus resinosa and strobus in northwestern Ohio, USA. Thinning reduced tree basal area by an average of 75%. Plant communities were sampled on 0.05-ha plots one and 3 years after thinning and compared to 10 unthinned control plantations. By 3 years after thinning, thinned plots contained 2–3 times more species and 14 times more plant cover than control plots. The species composition of colonizing plants was most strongly correlated with residual pine basal area and soil variables related to drainage (e.g., sand concentration, available water capacity). Although plant composition was dominated by widespread colonizers such as Erechtites hieraciifolia, the coefficient of conservatism (indicative of species of more intact, undisturbed communities) significantly increased on thinned plots from year 1 to 3. This finding, coupled with the presence of four rare, state-listed Ohio species whose eight plot occurrences all were on thinned plots, suggests that plant composition is moving towards species typifying more high-quality savanna and prairie habitats.


Forest thinning; Forest management; Great Lakes Region; Oak savanna; Ohio; Pinus resinosa; Pinus strobus; Prairie restoration; Red pine; Thinning; Understory; Wet prairie; White pine


Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Sciences | Forest Management | Natural Resources and Conservation | Other Environmental Sciences



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