• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation
A team of managers and scientists from the Ohio Hills are participating in a study called the Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) Network. The goals of this project are to test different silvicultural approaches to climate change and forest health adaptation that will also serve as useful examples across the U.S. and Canada.

Project Area

Ohio Hills ASCC study site. Photo Credit: Courtney Peterson, Colorado State University
The Ohio Hills ASCC study site is located within southeastern Ohio’s Interagency Forestry Team’s Collaborative Oak Management Region. The research units are distributed within Vinton Furnace State Forest containing a 2,882-acre research zone that is surrounded by 9,393-acres of state forest and a 3,547-acre wildlife management area. Forest types ranging from dry to mesic species compositions dominated by white oak, black oak, chestnut oak, red maple, yellow polar, and sugar maple are promoted by variation in the dissected topography of the region.

Management Goals

Tour of the Ohio Hills ASCC site. Photo Credit: Courtney Peterson, Colorado State University

A team of natural resource specialists from the Ohio Hills, regional managers, and scientists came together for a three-day workshop in May 2022 to develop the study design for the ASCC project site. Overarching management goals for the Vinton Furnace and Zaleski State Forest include:

  1. Manage for a compositionally and structurally diverse sustainable oak ecosystem
  2. Consider visual aesthetics where timber harvesting is recommended
  3. Support Ohio’s timber industry by promoting important commercial species such as white oak
  4. Mitigate risks of invasive species establishment or spread
  5. Sustain and promote organismal and functional diversity
  6. Protect known or discovered archaeological resources
  7. Employ all applicable water quality best management practices during timber harvest
  8. Support and provide recreational opportunities, including hunting and wildlife watching, through diversifying forest age and structure
  9. Support demonstration and science delivery

 

 

 

Each ASCC site utilized three adaptation options (resistance, resilience, and transition), as well as a control or “no action” treatment where no management takes place. The team developed a set of Desired Future Condition statements, Objectives, and Tactics for each major climate adaptation trajectory. These three trajectories are briefly summarized below:

Resistance:

  • Maintain an oak-dominated stand where understory matches overstory
  • Protect state endangered and threatened wildlife species (bats, birds, and timber rattlesnakes)
  • Resistant to disease (oak wilt and future novel diseases)
  • Regeneration matches composition of the overstory

Resilience:

  • Multi-cohort stand with diversity of ages, structures, species, and light conditions within natural range of variation
  • Natural regeneration of oaks and hickories
  • Resilience to wind, drought, ice storms, fire, and disease
  • Maintain large oaks
  • Promote wildlife habitat and herbaceous understory
  • Introduce fire throughout treatment
  • Low incidence of invasive plant species
  • Protect state endangered and threatened wildlife species

Transition:

  • Complex, multi-aged, variable structure
  • Native and novel future-adapted, drought-tolerant oak and pine species
  • Maintain white oak in canopy
  • Maintain productive forests that align with future conditions
  • Accommodate mixed to high severity levels of disturbance (drought and fire)
  • Low incidence of invasive species
  • Resistance to disease
  • Protect state endangered and threatened wildlife species

Climate Change Impacts

Key projected climate change impacts that the project team considered for the Ohio Hills include:

Increased average annual temperatures
Changing precipitation amounts and extreme weather events
Increased risk of drought: reduced snowpack and increased water loss
Increased invasive plants, pests, and pathogens
Increased risk of wildfires

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

Increased risk of drought stress on regeneration
Drier soil conditions in summer and fall, especially on south-facing slopes, may increase the risk of wildfire
Frequent fires have the potential to kill seedlings of many species, even those species that have relatively fire-resistant, thick bark as adults
Changes in tree species habitat
Increased frequency of extreme weather events (e.g., windstorms and ice storms) may lead to more frequent large-gap disturbances

Opportunities

Longer growing seasons
Increased fire frequency could help regenerate oak species and restore the understory composition
Climate change capability is good to very good for most of the many species in southeast Ohio, including white oak, northern red oak, black oak, red maple, pignut hickory, mockernut hickory, sugar maple, black gum, and yellow-poplar
Other common species are projected to persist over a smaller extent with fair to poor climate capability, including chestnut oak, scarlet oak, sweet birch, and American beech

Adaptation Actions

The ASCC project was designed to explicitly test three different adaptation options: resistance, resilience, and transition. A detailed silvicultural prescription was designed for each adaptation option, which was replicated several times across the study site. Detailed silvicultural prescriptions can be found in the Adaptation Workbook. The study site also includes several no-action "control" stands for comparison. Some of the adaptation tactics employed in this project include:

Area/Topic
Approach
Tactics
Resistance
Pre-commercial and commercial treatments to lower stand density to ~70% relative density through thin from below; overstory thinning as needed
Promote advanced regen of oak-hickory component & prepare for future recruitment
Prescribed burn to favor oaks
Resilience
Thin matrix to ~70% relative density through thin from below; overstory thinning as needed
Expanding gap / irregular shelterwood with variable retention (two entries): Range of 1/10th ac to ½ ac gaps based on desired species ~20% of stand; total ~4.5 acres
Mechanical and chemical site prep
Shelterwood prep cut
Prescribed burn following harvest
Natural regeneration of oaks and hickories; accept yellow poplar, sassafras, and others in gaps
Transition
Thin matrix to ~70% relative density through thin from below; overstory thinning as needed
Patch clearcuts with residuals in clumps; leave seed trees; 10 acres in gaps that are 1 acre in size (50% gaps, 50% matrix)
Prescribe burn
Chemical site prep
Plant mix of conifers and xeric deciduous species in clusters: Based on shade tolerance (silvics) in a grid across stand (openings, edges, and matrix)
Seed sourcing from Missouri and Arkansas to match Ozark-like climate projections; plant C4 grasses mix from Ozarks; consider shrubs for wildlife habitat

Monitoring

Monitoring is an essential component of the ASCC study. Research partners from several institutions are working together to investigate the effectiveness of different silvicultural treatments aimed at creating adaptive ecosystems. Some of the monitoring items include:
Oak advanced regeneration
Success of natural and artificial regeneration
Songbird, bat, timber rattlesnake, and other wildlife community response to treatments
Residual tree survival and growth

Next Steps

Final treatment locations were identified and assigned to each treatment and pretreatment vegetation data collection was initiated in July 2022. A pilot study determining differences in the songbird community among the study site was also conducted in July 2022. Formal prescriptions will be finalized during October – December 2022. Pre-treatment sampling will be conducted Spring 2023. Harvesting is planned to take place in Fall 2023/Winter 2024. Site preparation will begin in September 2023.

Other Related Links

Keywords

Diseases
Drought
Fire and fuels
Forest types
Management plan
Oak
Planting
Research
Wildlife habitat

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