Fire and Oak Regeneration in the Southern Appalachians

  • Arthur, Mary (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Throughout the Southern Appalachian region and beyond, the documented failure of oak forests to regenerate themselves has been attributed, at least in part, to the lack of fire in the last half century. Managers responsible for maintaining the diversity of Southern Appalachian forests are increasingly turning to prescribed fire as the management tool of choice in oak dominated forests. The decision to use fire with increasing frequency and spatial extent is based, in part, on an emerging sense of the prehistoric significance of fire in this landscape, and its potential to control the proliferation of firesensitive competitors of oak in contemporary forests. While it is well documented that fire has been an important ecological force in Southern Appalachian forests for a very long time, there is a lack of convincing data showing that prescribed fire effectively promotes oak regeneration. This proposal addresses this knowledge gap by developing studies that test whether or not fire (frequent or infrequent), can modify stand structure sufficiently to increase the competitive ability of oak seedlings. We propose to characterize the spatial variability in light regime created by single and repeated fire, quantify the response of individual seedlings using large seedling population studies, and quantify seedling recruitment in response to fire management. Using data from this study and oak regeneration prediction models, we will examine the consequences to oak regeneration of the prescribed burning treatments. In addition to this research need, we have identified an important gap in communication and collaboration among researchers and managers. Thus, the technology transfer component of this proposal identifies four strategies for formalizing opportunities for increased communication and dissemination of research results.
Effective start/end date12/1/019/30/05


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