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Increasing Oak Forest Resiliency in Southern New England

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Christopher Riely, Maria Janowiak, Amanda Mahaffey, and Thomas Worthley

Published May 2023 in International Oaks No. 34: 187–196

Abstract

The iconic southern New England landscape is a densely populated region in which historic villages and growing cities are set within an expansive forest. While oaks are dominant or significant species in 60% of these forests, they face pressures that compromise their health and ability to regenerate. Threats include deer herbivory and insect defoliation, while drought and climate-change stresses compound other disturbance factors. With traditional silviculture methods no longer working reliably and landowner motivations changing, new management options are needed.

A 2019-22 initiative led by the Forest Stewards Guild and state agencies has engaged partners in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to collaborate in promoting stewardship that will support and improve the resiliency of the region’s oak forests. One promising output of this collaboration is a web-based Oak Resiliency Assessment Tool that professionals and landowners can use.

Looking forward, researchers at the University of Connecticut and University of Rhode Island are leading a study designed to test different management approaches to help regional oak forests adapt to changing climate conditions.

Keywords

adaptation, climate change, decision support tool, foresters, landowners, silviculture, stakeholder engagement

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