Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Forest Resources

Committee Member

Alex T. Chow, Committee Chair

Committee Member

G. Geoff Wang

Committee Member

Donald L. Hagan

Committee Member

William C. Bridges, Jr.


Prescribed fire, thinning, and mastication are common forest management practices implemented in southern pine forests. These practices affect ecosystem properties differently depending upon the intensity at which they are implemented. One ecosystem property of interest is the chemical composition of forest detritus, commonly referred to as the litter and duff. This material is largely responsible for the replenishment of organic resources into soils. It may also be a primary contributor to surface water quality. In this study we were given an opportunity to evaluate two long-term forest management strategies at two sites along the South Carolina coastal plain to determine their effects on forest detrital chemical composition and potential water quality: 1) frequent prescribed fire (annual and biennial) and 2) a combination of periodic prescribed fire (every 3-4 years) and singular implementations of tree thinning and understory mastication. Based upon our analyses, we confirmed that the prescribed fires implemented on these sites display the characteristics of low intensity, low severity surface fires. As such, fuel quantities decreased as a result of forest management at both sites. At one of our sites, the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center in Georgetown, South Carolina, the chemical functional groups of forest detritus were not greatly altered by fire. Specific compounds within these groups may have been affected by fire, but returned to or fell below long-term unburned levels within one-year post-fire. On our other site, the Santee Experimental Forest, it appears that long-term forest management has altered overstory species composition and subsequently detrital chemical composition. At both sites, potential organic pollutants were reduced by the forest management practices. This reduction may be beneficial in terms of water treatment and human health. These results add to the long list of benefits noted in the literature for active forest management, particularly the benefits of prescribed fire.