Wildlife, Animals, and Plants
KUCHLER TYPE VALUE AND USE
KUCHLER TYPE: Oak-hickory forest
FORESTRY VALUES :
Forests dominated by oaks comprise the largest type of commercial
hardwood forest land in the United States. Collectively the red and
white oaks comprise 38 percent of the total hardwood sawtimber volume in
the United States. Oak wood is strong, hard, and tough. It has good
working characteristics and is used extensively for furniture, flooring,
paneling, ties, and cooperage. Oak manufacturing residues and low-grade
stems not suitable for lumber have been increasingly used for pulp
RANGE VALUES :
Livestock grazing is incompatible with timber production in most of the
north-central states; forage production is low and cattle damage tree
reproduction and compact forest soils. Grazing on Federal land in this
region is minimal. Forest range suitable for grazing is grassland
adjacent to or within forested areas, or savanna .
WILDLIFE VALUES :
Oaks are important to wildlife species for both cover and food. Young
oaks with branches close to the ground provide foliage browse long into
the winter months, and often provide the only brushy cover in dense pole
stands. Dried oak leaves are important in the winter diet of
white-tailed deer in some areas. Different parts of oak trees are
consumed by 186 different kinds of birds and mammals; the geographic
distribution of many animals coincides with or depends on the range of
oaks [84,94]. Acorn production is of primary importance to many birds
and mammals. For example, in the Ozarks of Missouri acorns comprise 37
percent of the yearlong diet of wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and 54
percent of white-tailed deer diets . Many mammals consume acorns,
including white-footed mouse, eastern chipmunk, eastern fox squirrel,
eastern gray squirrel, red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), flying
squirrels (Glaucomys spp.), and deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus).
Acorns (particularly of northern red oak) are an important food for
northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), red-headed woodpecker,
red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, tufted titmouse, common grackle,
white-breasted nuthatch, sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus spp.), quail
(Phasianidae), ruffed grouse, and various waterfowl including common
golden-eye (Bucephala clangula), gadwall (Anas strepera), mallard (A.
platyrhyncos), wood duck (Aix sponsa), hooded merganser (Lophodytes
cucullatus, and others [57,94].
Black oak has high cavity value for wildlife . Cavity nesters are
an important component of oak-hickory forests. Cavity nesters comprise
the 10 most frequent bird species in all 7 sampled vegetation types,
most of which are oak-hickory forest types in the Missouri Ozarks .
Current land use patterns that decrease forest cover and increase herb
cover result in an increased abundance of grassland bird species such as
dickcissel (Spica americana) and horned lark (Eremophila alpestris)
Many animals that depend on Illinois savanna or open woodlands are
decreasing in abundance due to forest closure caused by fire exclusion.
Examples include Kirtland's snake (Clonophis kirtlandii), Cooper's hawk
(Accipiter cooperii), and silvery blue butterfly . Sharp-tailed
grouse (Tympanicus phasianellus) habitat in the eastern United States
includes oak savanna and recently burned areas .
Nine species of terrestrial vertebrates on the Endangered and Threatened
Wildlife and Plants list occur in oak-hickory forest: gray bat (Myotis
grisescens), Indiana bat (M. sodalis), Ozark big-eared bat (Plecotus
townsendii ingens), eastern cougar (Felis concolor couguar), Bachman's
warbler (Vermivora bachmanii), bald eagle, peregrine falcon (Falco
peregrinus ssp. anatum and F. p. ssp. tundrius), and Kirtland's warbler
(Dendroica kirtlandii) . Branson and others  listed 81 species
of terrestrial vertebrates with ranges in oak-hickory forests in
Kentucky that are considered threatened, endangered, of special concern,
or of undetermined status because of lack of information. A summary of
state lists of rare, threatened, or of special concern was prepared by
Meredith  and included many species occurring in oak-hickory
OTHER VALUES :
Forests in the north-central states offer a wide variety of recreational
opportunities. All nine north-central states have both State and
Federal forest-oriented recreation facilities. Activities include
picnicking, camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing .
Forests in the north-central states provide habitat for most big game,
and many small game animals including game fish. There were 26,400
deer, 474 bear, 151 moose, and 1,927 wild turkey taken on National
Forest land in 1974 (National Forest land is only a small portion of the
available hunting areas in this region) .
MANAGEMENT CONCERNS :
Diverse vegetation is important for maintaining wildlife species
diversity in oak-hickory forests. Mature stands are high in cavity and
den value. Regeneration cuttings in even-aged stands create openings
and edge habitat. Regeneration areas provide browse, sapling stands are
good habitat for certain bird species, and pole, immature sawtimber, and
sawtimber stands are good habitat, providing mast and cover for many
Removal of culls and snags from oak-hickory forest stands has
detrimental impact on cavity nesting species. Even-age management of
eastern deciduous forests creates cull-free, young, fast-growing stands
that have very few cavities available to cavity nesting species. For
high quality bird habitat clearcuts should be kept small and planned so
that each management unit contains diverse stand age classes. Leaving
dead snags and trees with heart rot during regeneration cuts and
subsequent thinnings may maintain habitat for cavity nesting species.
On medium-quality sites, killing unwanted trees and leaving them
standing also provides habitat for cavity nesters .
Oak regeneration has become a subject of concern in oak-hickory forest
management; in many areas oaks are being replaced after harvest by mesic
hardwoods such as sugar maple [20,54,55,81]. Oak stands on sites with
adequate soil moisture usually have high densities of mesophytic species
in the understory, which often outcompete oak regeneration, even after
timber harvesting [15,55]. In Wisconsin planted oak seedlings showed
excellent (>90%) survival on plots in which tall (>5 feet [1.5 m])
understory vegetation was removed; on control plots where tall
understory vegetation was left intact more than 70 percent of planted
oak seedlings died within 5 years. Natural seedlings were also more
abundant on opened plots . Merrit  indicated that the present
mature oak stands originated when woodlands were subjected to severe
cutting, grazing, and fire; these conditions have largely been
eliminated from current management practices . Northern red oak was
favored by frequent fires and/or heavy cutting because of its sprouting
ability. In Indiana, however, both even- and uneven-aged silvicultural
practices have converted many stands containing large proportions of oak
sawtimber-sized trees to species such as sugar maple and yellow-poplar
(Liriodendron tulipifera) .
Advance regeneration in oak-hickory forest is poor [19,20,23,82].
Underlying causes may be related to fire exclusion. Fire may have a
beneficial influence on oaks by reducing competition from more
fire-sensitive tree species in the sapling layer . Fire reduces the
amount of litter under a stand, which, according to Lorimer , may
discourage rodent predation of acorns. Fire may indirectly influence
rodent populations as well, by reducing available nest sites and food
Oak-hickory forests in the northeastern United States have notable pest
problems. Gypsy moth larvae have caused widespread defoliation
contributing to oak decline and mortality in many areas, and oak wilt is
widespread in the central states and in some eastern states .
Butternut canker has caused widespread losses of butternut (Juglans
cinerea), and dogwood anthracnose has caused serious losses throughout
its range .
A widespread decrease in oak vigor and growth rate and an increase in
mortality have recently been attributed to high atmospheric levels of
sulfur dioxide and other pollutants .
In the central United States, savanna has declined drastically since
settlement. In Wisconsin and other northern areas, most savanna trees
were cut within 25 to 30 years after settlement. Savanna that was
protected from fire developed into dense forest .
Related categories for Kuchler Type: Oak-hickory forest