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Although Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana) woodlands are a characteristic landscape component in southwestern Oregon, little is known about their current or historical stand structures. Meanwhile, fuel reduction thinning treatments that change stand structures in non-coniferous communities are ongoing and widespread on public lands in this region; some of these treatments also have restoration objectives. Managers need baseline information on which to base prescriptions that have a restoration focus. We inventoried 40 Oregon white oak dominated woodlands across two study areas in southwestern Oregon, and describe here their stand characteristics and age structures. We assessed whether these varied systematically with site conditions or recorded fire history. Stands included various proportions of single- and multiple-stemmed trees and a range of tree densities and diameter- and age-class distributions. Variables that may indicate site moisture status were weakly associated with multivariate gradients in stand structure. Peak establishment of living Oregon white oaks generally occurred during 1850–1890, sometimes occurred in the early 1900s, and recruitment rates were low post-fire suppression (∼1956). Recruitment of sapling-sized oak trees (< 10 cm diameter at breast height, ≥ 1.3 m tall) was generally low and their ages ranged from 5 to 164 yr; they were not necessarily recent recruits. The observed wide range of variability in stand characteristics likely reflects the diversity of mechanisms that has shaped them, and suggests that a uniform thinning approach is unlikely to foster this natural range of variability.
For more articles from the Spring 2011 issue of Northwest Science please refer to the link below: