Fire in the Southern Appalachians Fuel Stand Structure and Oaks

  • Arthur, Mary (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Managers responsible for maintaining the diversity and productivity of southern Appalachian forests are increasingly turning to prescribed fire as a management tool 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 fire-sensitivecompetitorsin contemporaryforests. While it is well documentedthat fire has been an important ecological force in southern Appalachian forests for a very long time, there has been little research to demonstrate that prescribed fire effectively controls fire-sensitive competitors, promotes regeneration of desirable species, or maintains and promotes healthy forest stands. In the face of increased management burning there is a need to address these questions, and to quantify the role of existing and residual fuels in fire management following repeated fire of differing intervals. This proposal addresses these knO\,vledgegaps through studies that examine the etfects offrequent and infrequent prescribed fire on stand structure, response of seedlings, recruitment, and residual trees, and fuels. We initiated a small study with limited university and Forest Service funding starting in 1995, and more recently initiated a more comprehensive study with JFSP funding. As part of the technology transfer component of our JFSP-funded project we held meetings with managers and researchers in which managers articulated the need for quantification of fuels and bole damage. As a result we incorporated measurements of fuels, bole damage, and health class of crowns into our study design prior to implementation of burning in 2003. By the time our JSFP fundingcycle is over (in September 2004) we will have burnedthe 'frequent' fire sites two times (2003 and 2004) and the 'infrequent' fire sites once (in 2003). Funds for the proposed work would permit us to extend this locally and regionally important research to an increasingly meaningful duration that incorporatesinput from managers obtained from technology transfer activities in our current project. We propose to characterize stand structural changes and the resulting spatial variability in light regime created by frequent and infrequent prescribed fire, quantity the response of individual seedlings using large seedling population studies, and quantify seedling recruitment. We will also quantify fuel consumption and subsequent reaccumulation following fire, and examine the effects of fire on residual stems. This project builds on ongoing research and capitalizes on strong interactions between researchers and managers for the development of science delivery and application activities.
Effective start/end date10/1/047/31/07


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