Date of Award

12-2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Wang, Geoff

Committee Member

Waldrop , Thomas A

Committee Member

Callaham , Mac A

Committee Member

Bridges , William C

Abstract

Although there have been several individual studies measuring hardwood fuels, across the central Hardwood Region and southern Appalachian Mountains, little is known of how hardwood fuels are distributed across the landscape. Understanding this distribution is essential for fire management planning. Previous studies suggest that the decay rate of litter and fine woody fuel is greater on mesic sites as compared to dryer sites. In the southern Appalachian Mountains, northeast facing slopes and protected bottoms are generally the more mesic sites, while southwest facing slopes and exposed ridge tops receive sunlight for longer periods and should be more xeric.
The objectives of this study were to measure the annual accumulations and decomposition of leaf litter, fine woody fuel and total fuel loadings on undisturbed sites across different topographical positions in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The study site was located in Rabun County Georgia on the Warwoman Wildlife Management Area (WWMA). There were five 'treatments' used in this study, representing five topographic positions: ridge tops and middle slopes, and lower slopes on northeast (325 - 125 ) and southwest (145 - 305 ) aspects. Sites with lower slope positions and northeast aspects were considered more productive than those with middle slope and southwest aspects, because they are more protected (shaded) and should have had greater soil moisture. Ten plots (replicates) were established at each topographic position for a total of 50 plots.
The results suggest that there are few differences in accumulation and decomposition of leaf litter, 1-, 10-, and 100-hour fuels among different topographical positions. The only exception was coarse woody debris (CWD), which was significantly more on northeast facing slopes (26.6 t/ha) compared to all other slope positions
(10.8 t/ha). Ericaceous shrubs were present on 74% of plots and could have influenced the results. Further study is needed to determine if ericaceous shrubs impact both the accumulation and decomposition of hardwood fuels across the southern Appalachian Mountains.

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