One of the arguments against using prescribed fire to regenerate oak (Quercus spp.) forests is that the improvement in species composition of the hardwood regeneration pool is temporary and multiple burns are necessary to achieve and maintain oak dominance. To explore this concern, I re-inventoried a prescribed fire study conducted in the mid-1990s to determine the longevity of the effects of a single prescribed fire on hardwood regeneration. The initial study was conducted in three oak shelterwood stands in central Virginia, USA. In 1994, each stand was divided into four treatments (spring, summer, and winter burns and a control) and the hardwood regeneration was inventoried before the fires. During the burns, fire intensity was measured and categorized in each regeneration sampling plot. Second-year postfire data showed marked differences in species mortality rates, depending on season-of-burn and fire intensity: oak and hickory (Carya spp.) regeneration dominated areas burned by medium- to high-intensity fire during the spring and summer while yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) and red maple (Acer rubrum) seedlings dominated unburned areas and all areas treated with low-intensity fire regardless of season-of-burn. The treatments were re-inventoried in 2006 and 2007 to determine whether these fire effects were still present. The new data show that the species distributions by season-of-burn and fire intensity found in 1996 still existed 11 years after the treatments. The fact that fire effects in oak shelterwood stands can last at least a decade has important management implications for resource professionals interested in sustaining oak forests in the eastern United States.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law