Modeling Prescribed Fire Effects on Vegetation Dynamics in Pitch Pine and Mixed-Oak Forests

Authors: Anthony Zhao*, The Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Biogeography, Physical Geography
Keywords: prescribed fire, pitch pine forests, oak forests, mid-Atlantic, modeling, forest management
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Regency Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Fire is an important natural disturbance that drives ecosystem dynamics and is a valuable tool in forest management. Fire regimes and fire effects vary widely among and within regions. Historical data suggest that fire was an important disturbance agent in mid-Atlantic forests prior to widespread logging and other land use changes in the 18th and 19th centuries. These events were then followed by a period of fire suppression management through the 20th century. Exclusion of fire has altered forest composition, and there is increasing interest in using prescribed fire as a tool to restore fire as an important ecological process in these forests. However, the wide range of human-influenced forest conditions suggests that prescribed fire implementation could lead to a variety of ecological outcomes. This study uses simulation modeling to test the effects of varying forest conditions and fire regimes on potential ecological outcomes of prescribed fire. Field data on structure and composition of fire-dependent forests and the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) are used to simulate forest response to variation in fire regimes, specifically fire frequency and duration of regime. By exploring the ecological outcomes of prescribed fire, this research aims to provide tangible guidance for local forest management specialists implementing prescribed fire in mixed-oak and pine forests in the mid-Atlantic region.

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