Is a clearcut or a prescribed burn better overall?RSB's response.................As Bluetick already pointed out there is not hard and set fast rules on what species or regeneration you are going to get in a timber cut. There are just so many variables that often can’t be predicted.
But, with that said often Foresters will fence check the proposed cut area looking for advanced regeneration (that is new seedlings already started) in the mature forest area to be cut. That advanced regeneration is simply a new forest just waiting for enough sunlight to take off. Now that deer numbers are more in line with the existing habitat it is pretty common in the mixed oak forests to have sufficient advanced regeneration of oak sprouts before an area is cut. That is often a good sign for the Foresters but it also frequently doesn’t work out as they expected even with good advanced oak regeneration at the site.
Once the area is cut and you get a blast of sunlight getting to the forest floor everything with a seed source present is going to start the competition to be among the surviving trees. Many tree and shrub species can have seeds that lay dormant in the soil for decades and then take off as soon as you get the soil disturbance that comes with most logging operations and other seed types have been laying there dormant for decades just waiting for the sunlight they needed to jump into growth.
So in many cases it kind of depends on what seed source is already present and whether they are of a species that can grow fast enough to out compete some of the more desirable for often slower growing species. Then you have the problem of some species that simply will not compete with the faster growing species. Or, you could have a situation where there are fast growing invasive species that have no or few natural predators growing nearby that end up seeding your new cut area by either airborne seeding or seeding by birds or animals carrying the seeds. You could even still have so many deer in the area, though perhaps not a lot of deer, that move into the newly cut area, and eat off the most preferred new browse species enough to result in a cut filled with invasive species or none preferred browse or timber species. In some cases though if the deer population is about correct they will actually help with the new cut by eating some of the highly preferred browse species that are fast growing and commonly called pioneer species, like the fire cherry, and makes more room for some of the slower growing mast producing tree species.
There are just way to many variables to have a set rule on what is going to regenerate but what is guaranteed is that you will get the best results for both the future of the forest and the wildlife, including deer, populations in the areas where deer and other keystone species have been maintained at the correct natural balance.
And, make no mistake about the fact that having a good deer population, though in the correct balance with the habitat and food supply, is also very beneficial to having a healthy forest for the future. Some deer browsing is a very good thing in new cuts because the deer often prefer to browse on some of the faster growing though short lived and non-commercial tree species that can out compete the slower growing though more preferred commercially valued and mast producing trees. It isn’t that Foresters and other Resource Managers don’t want deer on their lands, it is just that they need them to be in populations that are in the correct balance. Deer are and always will be a very important component toward having a healthy forest and future for ALL forest and wildlife species.
Im sure certain seedlings would respond differently to each but I wonder which would have better lasting results or is a combination of the two best..