Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Changes to oak woodland stand structure and ground flora composition caused by thinning and burning

January 1, 2013

Our objective was to quantify the cumulative effects of prescribed
burning and thinning on forest stocking and species composition at a woodland
restoration experiment site in the Ozark Highlands of Missouri. Our study used four
treatments (burn, harvest, harvest and burn, control) on three slope position and aspect
combinations (south, north, ridge) replicated in three complete blocks. Harvested
stands were thinned from below to 40 percent residual stocking. Two prescribed
fires were applied to both burn and harvest-burn treatment units in a 5-year period.
Results reflect changes that have taken place over a 6-year period, from pretreatment
conditions to 1 year after the last fire. In this period, there was a 10-percent reduction
in the stocking in burned stands compared to control and a 6-percent reduction in
harvested and burned stands compared to harvested stands. Compared to the control,
percentage ground cover of woodland indicators was seven times greater in burned
stands, six times greater in harvested stands, and 22 percent greater in harvested and
burned stands. Th ere was no significant (P > 0.05) interaction between aspect and
treatment on stocking or ground flora cover. Th is study indicated that silvicultural
treatments do achieve various goals that are common to managers who aim to restore
woodland communities.