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Effectiveness and impacts of girdling treatments in a conifer-encroached Oregon white oak woodland

Kane, Jeffrey M., Engber, Eamon A., McClelland, John E.
Forest ecology and management 2019 v.447 pp. 77-86
Pseudotsuga menziesii, Quercus garryana, Sequoia sempervirens, birds, chainsaws, chronosequences, conifers, foraging, fuel loading, fuels, fuels (fire ecology), girdling, national parks, savannas, snags, trees, woodlands, Oregon
The prolonged absence of fire in Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana) woodlands and savannas of the Pacific Northwest has resulted in substantial conifer encroachment over the past century. Use of low intensity prescribed burns often lacks sufficient intensity to kill larger encroached trees, requiring alternative approaches. In the Bald Hills region of Redwood National Park, managers have implemented girdling treatments to kill Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) over the past two decades with the objective of recovering remnant oaks and restoring historical woodland area. We surveyed 258 girdled Douglas-fir to examine the effectiveness of girdling treatments to create snags and the impacts of girdling on tree regeneration and fuel recruitment over a 17 year time since girdling chronosequence. Girdling was successful in killing 91% of the treated Douglas-fir independent of the method used (axe or chainsaw). Larger trees with a low girdle width-to-tree diameter ratio tended to survive girdling. Trees with a girdle width-to-tree diameter ratio ≥1 were most effective at killing trees. Snags generated through girdling decayed over time but did not significantly reduce in height over the time period examined. Bird activity was observed on 19% of snags across the chronosequence but 88% of 10 y old snags had signs of bird foraging. Fine woody fuel loading and fuelbed depths were potentially elevated 7 years after treatment but did not persist through the time period examined. Regeneration of Douglas-fir and oaks were highly variable and did not seem to be clearly linked to girdling activity. Our results indicate that girdling is a highly effective treatment to kill Douglas-fir and aid restoration of Oregon oak woodlands with limited negative impacts on surface fuel hazards or regeneration.