|An Oak-Hickory forest, historically this was the most common upland forest, along with oak savanna in Iowa.|
|An old Oak-Hickory woodland being taken over by Sugar Maples and Basswood due to the lack of fire disturbance over the last century. Palisades State Park near Cedar Rapids, Iowa.|
Fortunately for land managers in Iowa, as well as the rest of the Eastern United States, are realizing the value of low burning fires as a management tool in prairies, savannas, and most recently Oak-Hickory forests. Today even, this management tool is fitting being almost all fires prior to settlement were also human started, also often to manage the growth of Oak-Hickory forests. Native Americans and many early settlers understood the value and importance of fire in maintaining quality, productive habitats and frequently set ground fires. Today, similar to these presettlement fires, these fires are not the raging hundred foot flames that consume everything in their path. Rather, they were low burning, lower temperature fires. Fire intolerant shrubs, trees, and thick accumulations of herbaceous plant materials were killed and cleared. Fire adapted trees such as oaks and hickories survive, and herbaceous plants survive as roots, all proliferated as a result of fire. Hopefully, the reintroduction of fire as a management tool will again cause the regeneration of Oak-Hickory forests. Time will tell.
|Oak woodland restored through controlled burns of the forest floor.|
The future of Iowa and other Midwestern forests has its dark spots but there is good reason for hope. While there doesn't seem to be much hope for the bottomland Ash tree, there is great hope for upland Oak-Hickory forests with the reintroduction of fire. This doesn't automatically mean Oaks and Hickories will start regenerating, but does greatly increase the likelihood. Our increased understanding and concern for our land will hopefully translate into healthy forests. Increased human management today, is similar to human management of the past, and this is good for us and our forests. These forests have been managed by humans for thousands of years, and a return to past healthy forests with the return to past management practices is very hopeful.
|White Oak leaves.|