Ecology and Silviculture of Oaks, The

Ecology and Silviculture of Oaks, The

Moser, W Keith

The Ecology and Silviculture of Oaks

By P.S. Johnson, S.R. Shifley, and R. Rogers. 2002. Oxford: CABI Publishing, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314 ( 503 p. $149.00. ISBN 0-85199-570-5 (Hardbound)

In writing The Ecology and Silviculture of Oaks, Paul Johnson, Stephen Shifley, and Robert Rogers have performed a tremendous service to the forestry community, and the hardwood forestry community in particular. Although there have been several books on hardwoods and numerous symposia on oak ecology and management over the years, this volume provides a centralized, albeit expensive, explanation and reference to a significant body of information focusing on the various species of oaks. What was most informative and valuable to me, however, was how this book also presented a template for understanding the ecology and management of all shade-intolerant to mid-tolerant species.

The book is divided into three parts: Ecology, Site Productivity and Stand Development, and Silviculture, Growth and Yield. In Part I, two chapters (Regeneration Ecology I: Flowering, Fruiting and Reproduction and Regeneration Ecology II: Population Dynamics) outline, respectively, the individual and systematic viewpoints of oak forests. Part II has chapters on Site Productivity, Development of Natural Stands, and Self-thinning and Stand Density. Part III contains chapters on Even-aged Silvicultural Methods, Uneven-aged Silvicultural Methods, Silvicultural Methods for Multi-resource Management, and Growth and Yield.

Many sections or themes could be mentioned as examples, but I will choose two to give the flavor of the book. In Chapter 3, Regeneration Ecology II: Population Dynamics, the authors develop the concept of accumulation of reproduction. They point out that locations that are accumulators of oak reproduction are frequently xeric, low-site quality, or possess some disturbance pattern, such as fire, that seems to favor oaks, or show some combination of all three. The authors then bring up the concept again when evaluating management techniques in Part III. Accumulation of oak regeneration is not a new idea, but the authors do a nice job of tying in the concepts of population dynamics and management choices in a manner readily understandable by the reader.

Chapter 9, Silvicultural Methods of Multi-resource Management, deals with creating and maintaining “non-traditional” (managed) forest systems, such as savannas, aesthetic, and old-growth forests. Although oak forests tend to be disturbance-mediated systems, managers increasingly consider alternative uses that: (a) do not focus on maximizing fiber production for economic uses and/or(b) do not result in full stocking. Creating open woodlands and savannas is a challenge many landowners face, including my own employer. While the ecological value of such systems is known, the strategy and tactics of creating and maintaining them still has a lot of misunderstanding and uncertainty. The authors wisely separate creation from maintenance and outline suggestions germane to each goal. I use the word “suggestions” because the authors frequently couch their guidelines in the form of questions the managers should ask. Good silviculturists do not mimic others but rather ask questions and answer them in their own way, and this book’s authors do an admirable job of avoiding prescriptive language.

I remember observing disturbance responses while managing oak forests in New England in the early 1990s, mentally cataloging the effects but perhaps not fully appreciating the underlying process. While reading this book, I frequently said to myself: “That’s right” or “I remember that now” when particular passages triggered a memory of some management activity or response. The authors present concepts in a way that managers can immediately recognize and relate to a particular situation or event in their professional experience.

Before my current job, I worked for 5 years on longleaf pine management in a conservation biology and wildlife management context. It was fascinating to recognize many of the ecological characteristics and management techniques of longleaf pine in the authors’ discussion of oaks. The necessity to accumulate regeneration, the timing and use of disturbance to both facilitate this reproduction and release the resulting seedlings, the relationship between disturbance frequency and management, even the use of interrupted cyclic burning give evidence of similarities in ecology and silviculture. Such lessons make this text of more universal value than the title suggests.

Criticisms that come to mind are minor ones. There were several typographical errors, particularly in the equations. I benefited from checking my copy against the first author’s corrected version, but most readers not located in Columbia, Missouri, would be grateful for a complete erratum from the publisher. I also would have appreciated something more substantial than the elementary school book cover. My copy, which I purchased little more than half a year ago, is already fraying at the corners. The authors chose to put references for each chapter at the end of that chapter. This makes it easy for the reader to find references germane to the segment she is reading at the moment, and to find similar citations. When she goes back later and tries to track down “that article by X they referenced somewhere,” this organization makes it more challenging to find the citation.

Nonetheless, this book was a delight to read, even if it took me a long time to finish it. The slow pace was not due to the quality of the writing, which was excellent, but rather because the book sparked in me questions and observations that I quickly noted, sending me down further paths of query and answer. All books should be so inspiring! I certainly recommend the book for managers and researchers as an essential part of their library. I would like to recommend this book to students in advanced silviculture or stand dynamics classes, but the price would put a significant burden on any student’s book budget.

Reviewed by W. Keith Moser, Silviculturist, Missouri Department of Conservation, 1110 S. College Avenue, Columbia, MO 65201 [(573) 882-9880, ext. 3320,].

Copyright Society of American Foresters Apr 2003

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