A 400-year history of fire and oak recruitment in an old-growth oak forest in western Maryland, U.S.A.

D. L. Shumway, M. D. Abrams, C. M. Ruffner

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We document the fire history and associated ecological changes of an old-growth forest stand in western Maryland, U.S.A. The study area is located on the side slopes of a ridge system (Savage Mountain). Twenty basal cross sections were obtained from old trees cut in 1986, which provided evidence of 42 fires from 1615 to 1958. Nine fires were recorded in the sample trees in the 17th century, 13 in the 18th century, 12 in the 19th century, and eight in the early to mid-20th century. However, there were no major fire years after 1930. The Weibull modal fire interval was 7.6 years. Oaks recruited consistently from the early 1600s to the early 1900s, but there was increased Acer rubrum L. and Betula lenta L. recruitment with fire suppression after 1930. Species recruitment patterns and long-term fire history reported in this study offer important direct support for the hypothesis that periodic fire played an important role in the historical development and perpetuation of oak forests of the mid-Atlantic region before and after European settlement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1437-1443
Number of pages7
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Forestry
  • Ecology

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