Michigan Oak savanna restoration: A comparison of mechanical thinning approaches in the context of prescribed fire and native seeding

Jason R. Reinhardt, Linda M. Nagel, Heather Keough, Christopher Swanston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Oak savanna systems were once fairly common across the midwestern United States but now occur in isolated patches. The increasing rarity of these ecosystems combined with conservation concerns for savanna-associated species such as the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly have resulted in a growing interest in oak savanna restoration and management. In this study, we explore the effectiveness of several different savanna restoration approaches using an operational-scale restoration experiment established in 2008 and 2009 on the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Lower Michigan. We compared three mechanical thinning approaches (bulldozer, masticator, and shear cutter) in conjunction with prescribed burning and native seed treatments. Our results suggest that among mechanical thinning approaches, the shear cutter was the most effective for promoting management goals of higher herbaceous plant cover, higher wild lupine cover, reduced woody plant cover, and lower invasive species cover. Postestablishment prescribed burning appears to be effective for furthering these management goals by reducing woody plant cover and creating more exposed soil for plant colonization. Seeding treatments further promoted desired cover types, while minimizing undesired cover types. The results presented here highlight some important differences among several common restoration approaches that may prove useful to practitioners interested in oak savanna restoration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)420-431
Number of pages12
JournalForest Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 9 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements: The authors thank T. Hobbs and B. Zimmermann for assistance with field work, and the staff at the Baldwin Ranger Station of the Huron-Manistee National Forest for logistical assistance. Funding for this work was provided by the Department of Forest Resources at the University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Society of American Foresters.


  • Lepidoptera
  • Oak barrens
  • Prescribed burning
  • Quercus
  • Savanna restoration


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