Date of Award

8-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Forestry and Environmental Conservation

Committee Member

Donald Hagan, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Thomas Waldrop

Committee Member

William Bridges

Abstract

Prescribed burn regimes in the forests of the southern Appalachian Mountains have been a topic of research since the revival of fire management in the United states. The presented two studies address two important topics: the viability of long term dormant season burn regimes to reaching management goals, and how the seasonality of prescribed burning may influence sprouting dynamics of target species.

The Fire and Fire Surrogate Site at Green River Game Land, Polk County, NC, provided forest structure and compositional data both before and after a 15-year, periodic dormant season burn regime. We found a significant decrease in smaller size class trees after the regime. Secondly, basal area of non-desirable mesophytic hardwoods, such as red maple (Acer rubrum), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.), and blackgums (Nyssa sylvatica), showed a significant decrease as a result of the burn regime. These results imply that if the current regime is to continue, it may result in less mesic, more fire-conducive forests. However, overstory oak abundance also declined significantly during the study period. The abundance of oaks in the midstory did increase in the burn treatment, but the difference was not statistically different from the control. Although periodic dormant season burning may help eliminate mesophytic tree species, future overstory composition may not be comparable to historical conditions. With American chestnut trees absent from the overstory, and hemlocks in decline, it may be unreasonable to think that restoration to historical composition is possible.

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