Structured decision-making for Maritime Live Oak forest restoration

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Dessa L. Dunn, Clinton T. Moore, Elizabeth G. King, Nathan P. Nibbelink, Hannah R. Morris

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Maritime Live Oak (Quercus virginiana; MLO) forests along the Georgia (U.S.A.) coast are highly regarded for their multiple natural and cultural heritage values. In recent decades, MLO forests have shown evidence of limited live oak recruitment, which may result in undesired long-term effects on tree community structure, function, and resilience. Many MLO forest stewards and scientists share a common interest in conserving forests by planting live oaks to augment existing populations. But there is uncertainty regarding potential restoration strategies because knowledge about MLO ecosystem dynamics is limited and fragmented among stakeholders. We used structured decision-making to collaboratively develop a decision-support tool for live oak tree-planting strategies. First, we held workshops with MLO forest stewards to identify: the managers’ long-term objectives and shorter-term success indicators; spatial and temporal scales of likely management actions; a set of potential management options; and data, legal, and resource constraints. Then we constructed a transition matrix model using empirical data and expert knowledge to estimate parameters for juvenile tree growth and survival rates associated with alternative treeplanting strategies. The decision support tool incorporated the transition model and associated cost estimates of management alternatives in order to project likely outcomes, costs, associated uncertainties, and the degree to which alternatives would meet different management objectives. This process ensured that we capitalized on diverse understandings and perspectives and that the decision support tool would be directly relevant to stewards’ values, objectives, and information needs.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program