Ecological and Financial Suitability of Sites for Long-Term Oak Management in Western North Carolina

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For thousands of years, oak species have been the dominant canopy species in eastern and central United States hardwood forests. Oaks (Quercus spp.) provide myriad ecological services and arguably comprise the most valuable hardwood timber genus in the eastern US. In recent decades, however, research shows that oaks are declining in density and being outcompeted by fast growing species like yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) and red maple (Acer rubrum). Due to oak fire tolerance, and ability to withstand droughts and poor soil conditions, Quercus promises to be a vital genus for climate resiliency. Western North Carolina has historically supported expansive oak dominated forests, and organizations are now concerned about protecting this valuable ecosystem. This project sought to identify land in western North Carolina that is ecologically and financially suitable for oak management and to understand the following questions: 1) Where is oak management ecologically viable? 2) What is the financial potential for oak management? 3) Where can loggers access timber? This was accomplished by conducting a survey and literature review about logger accessibility in the mountains, creating an oak management prioritization map and GIS tool using logger data and oak ecological requirements, and a financial analysis of the profitability of oak silviculture prescriptions. The results will help The Nature Conservancy (TNC) identify high priority areas to initiate oak management systems. With careful planning, oak management can be financially viable in western North Carolina.





Scott, Michael (2021). Ecological and Financial Suitability of Sites for Long-Term Oak Management in Western North Carolina. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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