Date of Award

12-2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Forest Resources (MFR)

Legacy Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Wang, G G

Committee Member

Walker , Joan L

Committee Member

Rieck , James R

Abstract

Across the southeastern United States, anthropogenic factors such as land conversion and fire suppression have resulted in the prevalence of loblolly pine in areas historically occupied by longleaf pine. Compared to longleaf pine forests, loblolly stands often contain a substantial broad-leaved midstory and lack the ground layer that contributes fuels essential for the frequent, low intensity surface fire regime necessary to sustain the longleaf ecosystem. Currently, there is considerable interest in restoring longleaf pine habitats to areas occupied by loblolly pine. The retention of mature canopy trees is often necessary to maintain ecosystem function, to preserve habitat features, and to provide fine fuels during the restoration process.
This study was established to evaluate various silvicultural techniques for restoring longleaf pine to sites currently occupied by loblolly pine. We examined the response of fine fuel loads, fire behavior, and short-term fire effects to 1) harvesting treatments that vary the density and distribution of canopy trees, 2) cultural treatments designed to improve longleaf pine restoration, and 3) within-gap direction and position. The study was replicated at two ecologically distinct sites within the longleaf pine range: Fort Benning in the sandhills of GA and Camp Lejeune on the coast of NC.
Our results suggest that canopy cover does affect fuel load (of some fuel categories), fire behavior, and fire effects. In general, graminoid and bare ground cover tended to increase as canopy cover decreased while litter depth and pine needle cover tended to increase as canopy cover increased. Downed woody fuels (1-, 10-, 100-, and 1000-hour fuels) were generally not significantly affected by canopy density. Fire behavior was highly variable. Maximum temperatures recorded by data loggers ranged from 50.9¡C to 258.9¡C. Percent area burned was significantly affected by canopy treatments and gap position, typically increasing as canopy density increased.
For the restoration of fire maintained longleaf systems, silvicultural treatments that retain a portion of existing canopy will help maintain ecosystem function and provide a fuel source during the restoration process.

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