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Fire History

Ericaceous shrub expansion and its relation to fire history in temperate pine-oak (Pinus-Quercus) forests of the eastern USA

Lafon et al., 2022 (a)

Shrub expansion is widespread in forests, but unlike the case for grasslands, contributing factors such as fire suppression have not been widely explored. In this dendroecological study, we investigate the role of fre suppression in the expansion of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) shrubs in xerophytic pine-oak (Pinus-Quercus) stands of the Appalachian Mountains. The shrubs apparently were uncommon until two to four decades following the onset of fire suppression, after which they expanded to form thickets that are extensive today. Shrub expansion likely benefitted from chestnut blight [Cryphonectria parasitica (Murrill) Barr] and acid deposition, which coincided with shrub establishment in the mid-1900s...

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Fifty-five years of change in a northwest Georgia old-growth forest

Butler et al., 2018

Old-growth forests provide unique insight into historical compositions of forests in the eastern United States. Plots established within a mixed forest community within Marshall Forest in Rome, Georgia, in 1960 (and remeasured in 1989) were reassessed to determine changes in forest composition. The community has experienced approximately 10% increase in basal area since the previous measurement period. However, changes in species importance have occurred. Chestnut oak (Quercus montana), mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa), white oak (Quercus alba), and flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) have all decreased in importance, while pignut hickory (Carya glabra), winged elm (Ulmus alata), yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), and red maple (Acer rubrum) have all increased in importance. ...

Fire History Reflects Human History in the Pine Creek Gorge of North-Central Pennsylvania

Brose et al., 2015

Fire history studies are important tools for understanding past fire regimes and the roles humans played in those regimes. Beginning in 2010, we conducted a fire history study in the Pine Creek Gorge area of north central Pennsylvania to ascertain the number of fires and fire-free intervals, their variability through time, and the role of human influences. We collected 93 cross sections from fire-scarred red pine (Pinus resinosa)...

Fire History of the Appalachian Region: A Review and Synthesis

Lafon et al., 2017

The importance of fire in shaping Appalachian vegetation has become increasingly apparent over the last 25 years. This period has seen declines in oak (Quercus) and pine (Pinus) forests and other fire dependent ecosystems, which in the near-exclusion of fire are being replaced by fire-sensitive mesophytic vegetation. These ...

Source: GTR SRS-219

Fire history and its relations with land use and climate over three centuries in the central Appalachian Mountains, USA

Aldrich et al., 2014

Our aims were to: (1) reconstruct the fire history of pine–oak forests in the central Appalachian Mountains, USA, with an annual resolution over as long a time period as possible using dendroecological techniques; (2) estimate the frequency of fire in the study area before the fire-suppression era; and (3) investigate how variations in land use and climate have affected the occurrence of fire in the study area...

Fire history and vegetation data reveal ecological benefits of recent mixed-severity fires in the Cumberland Mountains, West Virginia, USA

Saladyga et al., 2022

Without periodic fire, fire-adapted plant communities across the Central Hardwood Forest Region (CHF) in the USA have undergone significant changes in forest structure and species composition, most notably a decrease in oak regeneration and herbaceous diversity and an increase in shade-tolerant, fire-sensitive tree species. In this study, we conducted a comparative analysis of two mixed pine-oak (Pinus-Quercus) forests with different land management histories in the Cumberland Mountains of southern West Virginia where fire ecology and fire effects are understudied. We reconstructed the fire history of both sites from fire-scarred shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata Mill.) and pitch pine (Pinus rigida Mill.) trees to describe variation in the fire regimes over time. We also made plant community measurements that spatially coincided with fire-scarred pines to assess present-day plant community structure in relation to recent fire history...

Fire in the southern Appalachians: Understanding impacts, interventions, and future fire events

James et al., 2020

From October to December of 2016, a confluence of human and environmental factors led to an outbreak of wildfires across the Southern Appalachian Mountains. This report examines the time trends of fire in the Southern Appalachian region, including mitigation activities and forecasting acres burned. The introduction (ch. 1) of this report describes the 2016 Southern Appalachian fires on public lands and provides a brief description of the methodology used to understand economic impacts of fire. Chapters 2 and 3 examine how prescribed fire is used in this region. The final chapter (ch. 4) describes how we can expect area burned by both human- and lightning-caused fires to change given increases in global temperatures, fuels, and wildland fire management.

Forest disturbance history from 'legacy' Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida) at the New River Gorge, West Virginia

Saladyga, 2017 (a)

The mesosphytic forests of eastern North America represent a forest region characterized by dramatic 20th century changes in disturbance regimes, notably the exclusion of fire. Tree-ring reconstructions of forest disturbance can inform restoration and management plans by placing these changes into a historical context. This study examined forest disturbance with regard to land use change and drought in the New River Gorge region of West Virginia. I developed a 182-year pitch pine (Pinus rigida) growth chronology (1833–2014) using samples collected from 33 trees along 2 km of south and southwest-facing slopes at Babcock State Park...

Historical Fire Regimes and Stand Dynamics of Xerophytic Pine–Oak Stands in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, Virginia, USA

Lafon et al., 2022 (b)

Fire-dependent yellow pine (Pinus) forests are included within the temperate deciduous forest of eastern North America. These forests, which occupy dry slopes and typically contain xerophytic oaks (Quercus), have receded under fire suppression. Understanding historical fire regimes is essential for interpreting and managing these stands. To characterize fire history and vegetation dynamics, we conducted a dendroecological study of fire-scarred trees and age structure in pine stands at four sites in the Appalachian Mountains. Fire interval estimates suggest that before fire suppression began in the early to middle 1900s, fires occurred at approximately three- to eleven-year intervals. Short intervals were probably maintained in part by large-extent fires that spread from sparse ignition points. Fire frequency showed no long-term temporal trend (e.g., no wave of fire) from the middle 1700s through early 1900s despite land–use intensification, including industrial logging and associated wildfires during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries...

Historical drivers and contemporary perceptions of wildfire in a post-industrial rural landscape

Saladyga & Standlee, 2018

Placed-based fire management planning that considers historical patterns and processes as well as contemporary local knowledge is recognized as an alternative to broad-scale, regional approaches. In this paper, we used dendrochronology and an online survey to assess historical trends and contemporary perceptions of wildfire, respectively, in the fire-prone anthracite coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania. We developed an annual index of fire occurrence and extent from 216 fire-scarred pitch pine (Pinus rigida) distributed across 9 ridgetop study sites for the period 1900–2016.

Locating potential historical fire‐maintained grasslands of the eastern United States based on topography and wind speed

Hanberry & Noss, 2022

Historically, grasslands with limited tree presence were embedded in a matrix ofpredominantly open oak and pine forests in the eastern United States. These open ecosystems mostly have been lost to other land uses, particularly agricul-ture, and also to closed forests under fire exclusion because frequent surface fireprevents tree encroachment. We located the potential extent of eastern fire-maintained grasslands by applying the random forests and C5.0 classifiers todetermine the relationship between mapped areas of historical grasslands andtopography and wind speed, which are proxies for surface fire frequency. A gen-eralized ruleset was that fire-maintained grasslands occurred at roughnessvalues of less than 95, or flatter sites, and wind speeds≥3.4 m s1, which createdlarge fire compartments. Potential grasslands covered 27 million ha, or 14% ofthe 200 million ha of the eastern United States, although these fire-maintainedlocations also may have been savannas or open woodlands historically...

Native American influences on the forest composition of the Allegheny Plateau, northwest Pennsylvania

Black et al., 2006

We integrate witness tree distribution, Native American archaeological sites, and geological and topographic variables to investigate the relationships between Native American populations and pre European settlement forest types on the Allegheny Plateau, northwest Pennsylvania. Detrended correspondence analysis of witness tree data separated the presettlement forests into oak–hickory–chestnut and beech–hemlock–maple communities. Oak, hickory, and chestnut forests were centered on Native American village ...

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