Understanding the importance of season and quality of fire in the maintenance of pitch pine forests

Authors: Michael Gallagher*, , Nicholas S Skowronski, USDA Forest Service, Kevin Hiers, Tall Timbers Research Station, Megan Rhone, Rutgers University, Nicholas Soriano, University of Maryland, Dylan Bell, Stockton University, Thomas Gerber, New Jersey Forest Fire Service, Brian Corvinus, New Jersey Forest Fire Service, Benjamin Brick, New Jersey Forest Fire Service, Michael Achey, New Jersey Forest Fire Service
Topics: Natural Resources
Keywords: wildland fire, prescribed fire, pitch pine, forest restoration, fire adapted ecosystems, remote sensing
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Regency Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Pitch pine forests are an increasingly rare yet important group of vegetation types of the eastern United States. Decades of fire suppression, bark beetle outbreaks, and development threaten the integrity and long-term sustainability of these otherwise resilient forests across the entire range of pitch pine. Thus, there is a newfound interest in reintroducing fire to restore and maintain these forests. We used remotely sensed burn severity measures and field sampling to study pitch pine mortality and seeding rates during growing and dormant season fires. This work was focused in the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, the largest pitch pine barrens ecosystem, where approximately 10,000 acres of wildfire and 15,000 acres of prescribed fire occur annually and provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the role of fire on pitch pine mortality and regeneration. Through the analysis we found that patterns in burn severity follow a seasonal trend, and that pitch pine mortality appears is predictable from pre-fire inventory data, when post-fire burn severity is known. Likewise, initial results suggest that seasonality is an important driver in seedling recruitment, and suggests that stand replacing disturbance events are not necessarily critical for pitch pine reproduction. This work represents an ongoing effort to assess the relationships between pitch pine and fire for restoration and ecological forest management purposes.

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