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Reports from the oak-grasslands research

Reports from the oak-grasslands research

The data from those monitoring sites. What reports or publications have resulted from these data? Your assessment of progress on this project. When will native grasses be established? If native grasses are not established, what will you do?

You’ll find a listing of reports and publications at the end of  the answer to this question for more information.

Work to reestablish native warm season grasses is an on-going process. In order to achieve the desired results, additional management activities such as prescribed burning will take place.  All activities will be monitored for success.

South Oak-Grassland Demonstration Area at Land Between The Lakes
South Oak-Grassland Demonstration Area at Land Between The Lakes

Monitoring data

Dr. Patrick Keyser an Associate Professor with the University of Tennessee and Director of the Center for Native Grasslands along with his ‎PhD Graduate Research Assistant, Andy Vander Yacht, manage the research being conducted in Land Between The Lakes Oak-Grasslands Restoration Demonstration Areas. Their project documents responses of plants, birds, and bats to forest disturbances. Much of their research focuses on prescribed burning and timber harvest.

Dr. Keyser and Vander Yacht conduct their research at multiple sites across the mid-south as part of the Cooperative Oak Ecosystem Restoration Project.

Woodlands and savannahs of the Mid-South have been identified as the most imperiled ecosystem in North America.  Knowledge gaps involving recommended trees per acre, fire-season effects, and the tracking of long term management results require attention. There also exists a need to evaluate management in terms of effects on the quantity and quality of fuels, and the plant species providing and benefiting from them.  The study project is specifically looking at:

  1. Vegetation response to overstory disturbance and season of burning oak woodland and savanna restoration in the mid-south.
  2. Factors influencing the recruitment of shortleaf pine and native grasses during woodland and savanna restoration.
  3. Oak regeneration response to fire-season and canopy disturbance level in the mid-south.
  4. Effect of fire-season and overstory disturbance on fuel dynamics and fire behavior during woodland and savanna restoration.

The goal of UT’s study is to identify the most efficient strategy for restoring healthy and sustainable oak-grasslands, savannas, and woodlands in the Mid-South. Herbaceous ground layer gains (grasses and wildflowers) and woody encroachment controls (shrubs and trees) provide critical indicators of successful restoration strategies.

A copy of Mr. Vander Yacht’s dissertation proposal can be found at

South Oak-Grassland Demonstration Area at Land Between The Lakes
South Oak-Grassland Demonstration Area at Land Between The Lakes

During the Advisory Board meeting in July, Dr. Keyser took the board members on a tour to the UT research locations within the south Oak-Grassland Restoration Demonstration Area. When presenting the University’s overview of their research, they shared that 42 herbaceous species were noted prior to the 2008 timber harvest in our south oak-grassland area and in 2014 there was close to 150 different species. A report of these studies can be found at:

Another study conducted by UT is focusing on bird impacts to restoring grasslands.  The loss of savannas has contributed to the decline of many grassland bird species.  Despite the need to restore these habitats, research evaluating the effects of mechanical thinning (i.e., selective removal of overstory trees through commercial logging) and prescribed burning for oak savanna restoration is limited. Several investigators have concluded that fire alone may not be sufficient to restore oak savanna ecosystems and that mechanical thinning may reduce the time required for restoration to years, rather than the decades, when using burning.

Students collected data from 12 active savanna restoration projects in various stages of the Mid-South that included results from Land Between The Lakes. This study concentrated on better understanding plant and bird community responses to restoration. Specific objectives were to:

  1. Document changes in herbaceous vegetation, woody vegetation, and birds of this specific region within mature, oak-dominated forests in the Mid-South in response to disturbances imposed for the purpose of savanna restoration,
  2. Evaluate the influence of topographic variables on vegetation during the restoration process, and
  3. Evaluate the relationship between breeding bird observations and vegetation during the restoration process.

A link to this research results can be found at:

When will the grasses be established?

Warm season grasses can remain dormant in the soil for approximately 100 years waiting on the right soil and light conditions to grow.  The re-establishment will take years or decades to complete and maintain.

Some timber harvesting and prescribed burning has taken place in the Oak-Grasslands areas and more are needed.  Once the grasses are established they will require prescribed burning and periodic timber stand thinning to maintain these growing conditions.

Re-establishment of functioning ecosystems can take decades to evolve naturally.  By utilizing tools as prescribed fire and timber thinning this process can be shortened.  The results of future activities will be added to the information already collected by Dr. Keyser and his students.

If native grasses are not established then what?

The area will continue to be monitored to assess progress towards the desired condition. Monitoring will be used to modify management activities based on results.

South Oak-Grassland Demonstration Area at Land Between The Lakes
South Oak-Grassland Demonstration Area at Land Between The Lakes


Ecology and Management of Oak Woodlands and Savannahs

Vegetation and Avian Response to Oak Savanna Restoration in the Mid-South USA

Oak Savannas Characteristics, Restoration, and Long-Term Management

The center for Native Grassland Management

Oak Savanna Restoration: Oak response to fire and thinning through 28 years

Effects of oak savanna restoration on avian populations and communities in Illinois


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