“Acorns are the most important wildlife food in the deciduous forests of North America, the ecological equivalent of manna from heaven.” So begins Oak Forest Ecosystems: Ecology and Management for Wildlife, a recent book co-edited by Dr. William McShea (Smithsonian Institutions National Zoological Park). According to McShea, principal investigator of the Earthwatch-supported Shenandoah Wildlife project through the 1990s, “When acorns start to fall, it’s like the opening of a play: Everybody shows up. Every deer we’ve radio-tracked is in the oak stands, each eating roughly 500 acorns a day nonstop.” Earthwatch teams working with McShea were examining the impact of expanding white-tailed deer populations on other species in the oak forests of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
Based on the premise that understanding the role of oaks within forests will help conservation professionals manage wildlife populations, Oak Forest Ecosystems provides a diversity of scientific perspectives on how these ecosystems function. McShea and co-editor William Healy provide introductory and summary chapters, including goals and guidelines for managing oak ecosystems for wildlife, but subjects range from deer, bears, turkeys, and squirrels to forest fires and gypsy moths. The book provides valuable insight into the ecology of North America’s rich deciduous forests, and will be an important landmark in the management of forest species.
Oak Forest Ecosystems: Ecology and Management for Wildlife. William J. McShea and William M. Healy (eds.). The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.