Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Biology (M.S.)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Priscilla Nyamai

Second Advisor

Todd Aschenbach

Third Advisor

James Dunn

Academic Year



Oak savannas have greatly declined since the 1800s and management is needed to maintain these rare community types. A combination of prescribed burns and mechanical thinning are a common practice to increase forb abundance and biodiversity. This study examines the viability of another technique to thin the canopy called girdling, which was used in conjunction with low-intensity prescribed burns. Early summer prescribed burns were conducted in 2017, 2019, and 2021, while girdling treatments were implemented in 2017 and 2019. The study was conducted in Kent County, Michigan at two degraded former oak savanna communities. In 2022, we collected data to compare vegetation groups, canopy characteristics, soil, and seedbank characteristics between the control and treatment sites. We also examined groundlayer and forb vegetation cover associations with vegetation and site factors using Structural Equation Modeling. Management recommendations were given based on our findings.

Available for download on Sunday, August 09, 2026