Post-wildfire recovery of an upland Oak−Pine forest on the cumberland Plateau, Kentucky, USA

Devin E. Black, Zachary W. Poynter, Claudia A. Cotton, Suraj Upadhaya, David D. Taylor, Wendy Leuenberger, Beth A. Blankenship, Mary A. Arthur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Many forests within the southern Appalachian region, USA, have experienced decades of fire exclusion, contributing to regeneration challenges for species such as oaks (Quercus spp. L.) and pines (Pinus spp. L.), and threatening the maintenance of oak-dominated forests in the future. While the use of prescribed fire as a forest management tool is increasing within this region, there remains a lack of information on the potential role of wildfire. A wildfire within the Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky, USA, provided an opportunity to investigate how wildfire affected forest vegetation response. Results: We examined the effects of fire severity, quantified using composite burn index (CBI), on basal area, stem density, and sapling recruitment for several key species. We also examined the effects of fire severity on understory species richness and illuminated the consequence of non-native species invasions following fire. Our results demonstrated a negative relationship between fire severity and basal area (stems ≥2 cm diameter at breast height; P ≤ 0.001), and a positive relationship with the recruitment of oak and pine saplings (both P ≤ 0.001), oak sapling density (P = 0.012), and non-woody understory species richness (P ≤ 0.001). We also found that increasing fire severity heightened likelihood of invasion by non-native species, specifically princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa [Thunb.] Siebold & Zucc. ex. Steud; P = 0.009) and Chinese silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis Andersson; P = 0.028). Conclusions: Where it is feasible, public land managers may be able to generate a range of fire severity during future prescribed fires that approximate some characters of wildfire. These fires, when implemented in southern Appalachian upland forests, may help recruit oaks and pines and boost their potential as future canopy dominants. However, the increased occurrence of non-native invasive species invasion following fire conveys the importance of targeted and timely eradication treatments before new populations of non-native species may become established or reproduce, contradicting the ecological benefits of fire.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalFire Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH. All rights reserved.


  • Chinese silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis)
  • Fire severity
  • Invasion potential
  • Management
  • Oaks (Quercus spp.)
  • Pines (Pinus spp.)
  • Princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa)
  • Species richness
  • Wildfire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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