APPENDIX 2. Examples of some of the main components, processes, thresholds, and uncertainties of the oak social-ecological system, as described by regional natural resource professionals. These system features are categorized as either ecological or social/economic in nature and vary in the scale at which management and/or policy mechanisms are or could be used to address them. Example quotations are given to illustrate each feature (pseudonyms are used to protect interviewees’ identities).

Key System Component or Process
Type of Issue
Management/ Policy Scale
Example Quotation
Deer herbivory1
Ecological
Site-level, multi-parcel, and regional
[Deer herbivory] has gone ballistic. . . . There are a lot of woods that you can’t find any tree younger than 20 years of age. And there are just browse lines on the edge of the woods. Talk about an oak regeneration problem! That’s an enormous problem for Northeast Iowa. It’s the number one culprit; I’m 100% convinced of that. It’s not just shade and succession. . . . The bottom line is, let’s say if you look at the deer pressure on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 being the worst. Well, you could probably just plant seedling walnut, cherry, ash, and spruce; if it was like a 7 or an 8, you could get by with certain things. But we’re going to have to get that herd down to a 4 to grow oak again. To really be able to grow oak consistently, because [the deer are] selectively browsing [oak]. —Tim, a public forester for over 10 years
Spread of invasive oak pests and diseases1,2
Ecological
Site-level, multi-parcel, regional, national, and global
My main concern right now is what’s on the horizon with gypsy moth and emerald ash borer coming at us. I think that too is going to change the face of the Driftless Area. Gypsy moth is going to rage through; it’s going to take—probably the first go-around—it’s going to take all the unhealthy trees, trees on poor aspects. Between that and black oak, our south slope red oak stands could be decimated. The oak wilt is going to get them, or gypsy moth is going to defoliate them three years in a row. —Bob, a veneer buyer in the region for nearly 20 years
Spread of invasive plant species1,2
Ecological
Site-level, multi-parcel, regional, national, and global
Now the number one problem we’ve got . . . is the invasive species. European buckthorn has completely changed what we’re doing either for post-treatment or follow-up treatment. It’s the primary thing we have to kill. It gets so bad there even sugar maple can’t regenerate. And it’s incredibly expensive. —Leo, a consulting forester for over 20 years
Advanced sugar maple regeneration1
Ecological
Site-level, multi-parcel, regional
And with red oak, with this amount of deer herd that we have, and with the amount of competition that’s generated, it’s next to impossible to get red oak to regenerate in this hardwood stand. Unless you do very intensive management. And then what’s the point if you’ve already got basswood and maple encroaching. You can manage until you’re blue in the face and it’s still going to encroach! —Leo, a consulting forester for over 20 years
Landowner adoption of oak management practices
Social/ Economic
Site-level, multi-parcel, regional
A lot of landowners when they write their [management plans] . . . they’ll say, ‘I want to manage for oak.’ Well, when you talk to them and you find out about it, they really mean, ‘I don’t really want to manage for oak, I don’t want to manage another oak stand, but I really like the oak trees I have. So I really want to keep these oak trees.’ But they're not willing to go through the expense, and the time, and the effort to actually try to bring back oak.
—Dan, a consulting forester for nearly 10 years
Site-level economic cost of oak regeneration
Social/ Economic
Site-level
In these direct [oak] seedings, we usually get really good germination of your oaks, red and bur anyway, but the deer usually get them, or the rabbits. What they’ve gone to doing is basically leaving out the acorn component and . . . going in the following spring and planting 10-20 good sized oak and then caging them, a wire cage. Although it’s a lot of work and it gets spendy, it might be the way we’ll have to go to guarantee oak until the deer herd is thinned out. . . . But that costs almost $10 a tree.
—Dale, a logger and contract forester for over 30 years
Forest parcelization and exurban housing development1,2
Social/ Economic
Site-level, multi-parcel, regional, and national
The other change is that the forest is being fragmented. . . . .Because the value of recreational land right now, it’s worth more than crop land. People are paying $3,000 dollars an acre for a place to hunt. People are selling off that woods from the farm, and it’s fragmenting the landscape. —Grant, a public forester for nearly 30 years
Short-term aesthetic appeal of property
Social/ Economic
Site-level
During the harvest, it’s going to be ugly, no doubt. For ten years after the harvest, even if you do everything right, it’s going to be so thick you can’t walk through it. So it’s not real enjoyable. And then after 15 or 20 years it starts to kind of become a little easier to get through. —Rich, a consulting forester for nearly 20 years
Landowner placing importance on non-timber attributes of property
Social/ Economic
Site-level
I see a lot of building going on out in the timber and I hate to see that too. I think that takes away from the timber resource. . . . They want some recreation ground. They want a park. . . . They’ve got resources available, financial resources they can actually build a house and [they think], ‘Look, this is great, we can live out in the park.’ Parks are not managed for timber very well, they’re there for looks; they’re not there for timber management that usually involves some sort of cutting, disturbances we’re talking about. And people that live out there, well they don’t want to disturb it...They don’t want to mess it up. That’s makes it tough to do some sort of management activity. —Todd, a consulting forester for over 10 years
Landowner posting “no hunting” of property
Social/ Economic
Site-level, multi-parcel, regional
A recreational buyer . . . the first thing they do is slap “no hunting” signs all over their boundaries. . . . One of my clients . . . he lived there most of his life and . . . he said when he was a kid he could count 23 different farms in this area that he could hunt. And he says now there’s only one farm of those 23 he’s got any permission to hunt on, and all the others have been locked up. —Tim, a public forester for over 10 years
Stumpage price of sugar maple >= oak
Social/ Economic
Regional, national, and global
But since there was a lot of over mature [oak] timber, a lot of these woods had maple-basswood understory. When you finally took the bigger oak, it released the maple-basswood, so now we’ve got some more pure stands of maple-basswood. Which, in our industry, the way we’re looking at it now with hard maple being excellent, even more valuable than oak, and basswood kind of a medium grade value wood, we’re going to manage for those timbers.
—Paul, a sawmill owner for over 25 years
Landscape-level economic and operational constraints
Social/ Economic
Regional,
national
Say you have 30 contiguous acres of woods and if it is owned by one property owner, say it’s a nice red oak stand for the most part. If that one landowner . . . he would be much more apt to be able to carry out proper silviculture on it, carry out a harvest on it, regenerate the oak. That same 30 acre parcel is now six landowners of five acres apiece. The likelihood of being able to get that harvested in the same way is gonna be a lot more difficult, because...you have six different landowners and...for them all to have the same interest and same goals, both short- and long-term, is not always the case. . . . It kind of takes away some of the managing based on what the actual resources are. It takes away some tools from sound forest management. . . . It brings more social or human factors into...[how] the actual management is carried out on that property. —Sam, nearly 10 years as a public forester
Landowner contact with natural resource professional
Social/ Economic
Site-level, regional
Probably the biggest challenge with the landowners is getting them to call. Once, if they call, then the chances of them doing something are pretty high. Once you start working with them, most people, when they see what needs to be done in their woods, everybody’s willing to do something. The cost-sharing is a big benefit in that. . . . The cost of doing this stuff, if it gets too prohibitive, it’s going to prevent people from [managing their forest].
—Rob, a public forester for over 15 years
Landowner selective removal (high-grading) of individual, high value trees
Social/ Economic
Site-level, regional, national
A lot of the harvesting that occurs...is at the whim of the owner and the logger. And what typically happens still is a high-grade down to a certain [tree] diameter limit, and in a lot of cases that just tends to promote further conversion to, if we’re lucky here, maybe northern hardwoods—sugar maple, basswood, ash—or if you’re unlucky, it’s elm, hickory and box elder. So we have a wholesale conversion of former oak stands to something else.
—Jake, a public forester for over 30 years




1Described as a key system threshold; once a critical level is reached, management practices are ineffective or cost prohibitive.
2Described as a critical uncertainty in the system. Natural resource professionals were uncertain about the future trajectory of these components or processes or unsure about how or if management and policy mechanisms could be implemented to address these issues