In fire-dependent oak ecosystems throughout the eastern United States, recruitment of oak saplings to the forest canopy is poor. Although current overstory composition in dry and dry-mesic forests is dominated by white oak (Quercus alba) and black oak (Quercus velutina), the understory of these forests is often dominated by red maple (Acer rubrum). This successional trajectory towards mesophytic dominance has significant negative consequences for wildlife, as faunal diversity is dependent on oak acorns and leaves, and the physical structures provided by oak trees, snags, coarse woody debris, wood cavities, and litter. To investigate the factors that contribute to successful oak regeneration, we conducted vegetation and soil sampling in 105 oaks forests stratified by ecoregion, glacial landform, and management history across the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Join us to learn where oak regeneration is succeeding and failing and what factors contribute to successful oak regeneration.
Mike Kost serves as Associate Curator at University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum and as a Lecturer in the School for Environment and Sustainability, where he teaches a course on ecology and botany entitled Herbaceous Flora and Ecosystems. As a curator he focuses on making data on the living collections at Matthaei-Nichols accessible for teaching, learning, and research. Before joining U-M, he served as the Lead Ecologist and a Senior Conservation Scientist with Michigan Natural Features Inventory at Michigan State University Extension, where he focused on documenting and describing the natural communities of Michigan and working with natural resource agencies on identifying key sites for biodiversity conservation and management. In this role, he coauthored over 80 publications, including the books “A Field Guide to the Natural Communities of Michigan”; “Prairies and Savannas in Michigan”; and “Exploring the Prairie Fens Wetlands of Michigan”. In this webinar, Mike will be describing the findings from a three-year research project on oak regeneration in Lower Michigan that he conducted with Jeff Lee while at Michigan Natural Features Inventory.