Changes in Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana Dougl. ex Hook.) following release from overtopping conifers

Oregon white oak or Garry oak (Quercus garryana Dougl. ex Hook.) is a shade-intolerant, deciduous species that has been overtopped by conifers during the past century in parts of its range due to an altered disturbance regime. We examined the response of suppressed Oregon white oak trees in western Washington, USA, to three levels of release from overtopping Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii [Mirb.] Franco). We treated individual oak trees with either full release from competition, partial (“half”) release from competition, or a stand-level thinning of Douglas-fir not directed toward release (control). Five years after treatment, oak trees had suffered no mortality or windthrow. Stem diameter growth was 194% greater in the full-release treatment relative to the control. Acorn production varied widely by year, but in years of higher production, acorn production was significantly greater in both release treatments than in the control. Frequency of epicormic branch formation was significantly increased for years 1 and 2 by the full release; the greatest response occurred between 2 and 6 m above ground level. The greatest number of epicormic branches formed on trees on which the majority of original limbs had died back prior to treatment. Trees with relatively less crown dieback at the time of treatment generally had greater stem growth and acorn production responses to release treatments. Our findings indicate that these released Oregon white oak trees are beginning to recover after an extended period of suppression.