Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Michigan
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Michigan Project


Evaluating outcomes of oak forest management on Southern Michigan State Game Areas.

September 2023 - December 2028


Personnel

Participating Agencies

  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources
PhD student, Clay Wilton, conducts vegetation surveys in an mature, recently-burned oak woodland to evaluate the outcomes of different management techniques.

Upland oak ecosystems in the Eastern United States are critically important habitats for a wide diversity of game and nongame wildlife species. However, these ecosystems are threatened by "mesophication", a process in which mesic-adapted tree species such as maples invade and displace oak. Oak displacement can cause a regime shift which can only be reversed with extremely intensive management intervention. In order to protect intact upland oak ecosystems, it is imperative that we understand the efficacy of oak habitat management techniques (prescribed fire, mechanical disturbance, herbicide application). Working with partners from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State University, and Michigan Natural Features Inventory, we are evaluating the outcomes of oak management at a large number of oak stands (~75 units) and implementing a Before-After Control-Impact study. Results from this study will assist our partners at DNR in understanding which tools and the frequency of implementation required to combat mesophication and ensure the long-term persistence of valuable oak woodlands.