Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Prescribed fire and overstory manipulation through mechanized timber harvesting are important tools for the ecological restoration of fire-dependent forests/woodlands, which have been altered extensively by twentieth century fire suppression policies. However, there are many challenges in using these tools due to terrain, logistic, and social constraints; issues exacerbated in rugged mountainous terrain. This thesis creates a series of ArcGIS models which are used as decision support tools for ecological restoration, using prescribed fire and mechanized timber harvesting equipment operation, in mountainous terrain. My GIS modeling approaches use 13,118 ha of forest area within the Jocassee Gorges Natural Resource Area (situated in Northern South Carolina on the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment or SBRE) as a case study to introduce my modeling concepts. In Chapter 1, I present the Fire Habitat Suitability Index (FHSI) a flexible and scalable model combining GIS based data and ecological monitoring data. The FHSI rates forest stands and burn units on a 1-5 priority scale for ecological restoration through prescribed fire. In Chapter 2, I present the Harvest Operability Index (HOI) which rates forest area on a 1-5 suitability scale for wheel-based mechanized harvesting equipment given terrain and operational constraints. In Chapter 3, I combine the FHSI and HOI to develop the Restorability Index (RI). The RI model integrates the FHSI and HOI to identify high priority areas that are in need of ecological restoration through prescribed fire, and are simultaneously suitable for the operation of wheel-based harvesting equipment. The models delineated and proposed high priority areas for ecological restoration with prescribed fire that were also highly operable for mechanized timber harvesting equipment for the case study area. These modeling approaches are flexible in their construction, and can be adapted to various other locations where ecological restoration through prescribed fire and timber harvesting are management important management tools.
Phelps, Keith, "Optimizing the Restoration of Fire Dependent Forests of the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment with GIS Modeling Approaches" (2021). All Theses. 3497.