Oak, fire, and global change: what might the future hold?

by Dr. James Vose, Southern Research Station, USFS



The pace of environmental and socioeconomic change over the past 100 years has been rapid. New stressors such as air pollution, invasive species, changes in fire regimes, and land use change have shaped the structure and function of most forest ecosystems, including eastern oak forests. For example, changing fire regimes is altering species composition and oak regeneration is constrained by many factors. Over the remainder of the 21st century, an accelerating pace of climate and socioeconomic changes will further shape eastern oak forests. Some of these impacts will be direct (i.e., changes in growth rate), while other impacts will be indirect (i.e., new disturbance regimes). While it is likely that fire will play a role in shaping oak forests in the 21st century, it is less clear exactly what that role will be. For example, it is uncertain whether our current scientific knowledge on the use of fire in oak forest will be applicable under novel climate and changing socioeconomic conditions. In this presentation, Dr. Vose will discuss the interactions among oak ecosystems, fire, and global change and discuss new management approaches to obtain achievable future conditions in eastern oak ecosystems.