Effects of thinning and burning on ground flora in mixed Pinus-hardwood stands

Authors: Carson Barefoot*,
Topics: Natural Resources, Biogeography, Land Use
Keywords: Ground flora, forest management, silviculture, prescribed fire, thinning
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Commercial thinning and prescribed fire are tools used to accomplish forest management objectives such as increased timber revenue, fuel reductions, and increased biodiversity. Silvicultural treatments can alter forest structure and nutrient flow to increase resiliency by promoting regeneration of native species, especially in the ground layer, where the majority of genetic diversity is stored. Management regimes that optimize ground layer attributes in stands following timber monoculture are less understood. We examined the effects of thinning without fire and thinning with different fire frequencies to identify changes in community structure and species composition with a focus on taxonomic richness, evenness, diversity, and cover of ground flora in Pinus-hardwood stands on the Cumberland Plateau in northern Alabama. Overstory basal area and density decreased with increased management intensity. Sapling density substantially increased with increased management intensity in the second growing season post-fire. Sapling density did not negatively affect light reaching the ground layer, as light availability increased with management intensity. Ground layer taxonomic richness, diversity, evenness and cover were greatest in stands that were thinned and burned every three years, and were negatively correlated with litter depth and positively correlated with exposed mineral soil in a non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMS) solution. Ground layer biodiversity was greater in stands with fire compared to stands that were thinned and never burned, signifying the need for a combination of thinning and burning in these systems. Land managers who wish to promote biodiversity may consider more frequent burning to decrease litter depth and promote native plant richness.

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