Oak-dominated forests make up seventy percent of the forested area in southern New England. This forest type, however, faces pressures that compromise its long-term health and ability to regenerate. Ongoing threats include heavy deer herbivory and defoliation from Lymantria dispar (formerly gypsy moth) and other pests. At the same time, impacts associated with climate change—such as increasing seasonal drought and extreme precipitation and weather events—make forests more vulnerable and exacerbate existing disturbances. Forest degradation negatively impacts wildlife species that depend on oaks for food and habitat, causes safety hazards in residential neighborhoods or on roadsides, and can deal a significant financial blow to private woodland owners. Amid these contemporary threats, silvicultural prescriptions that were once effective may now fail to secure healthy oak regeneration. New approaches are needed to steward the region's valuable oak forests.
Private family forest landowners own most of the region's forests (70%). Landscape-scale shifts in the region depend on effective landowner outreach, education, and engagement to encourage stewardship actions that promote the development of healthy and resilient oak forests. Every landowner has a unique connection to their forest, and their primary goals and objectives can vary widely. Goals may include timber management, recreation, wildlife habitat, legacy, or a mix of these outcomes and others.
Given the ecological importance of oak species in this region's forests, all land management approaches stand to gain by integrating measures to promote the long-term resilience of oak forest types. The Oak Resiliency Tool is designed to enable natural resource professionals and landowners to better understand and engage in informed decision-making related to the management of oak forests.