Alexander, Heather D.
Date of Degree
Graduate Thesis - Open Access
Master of Science
College of Forest Resources
Department of Forestry
In historically fire-dependent upland oak forests of the eastern U.S., anthropogenic fire exclusion is likely causing a hypothesized feedback loop between an increase in fire-sensitive species and self-promoting, fireree conditions at the detriment of oak regeneration. This study determined how shifts from oaks (Quercus stellata and Q. falcata) to fire-sensitive non-oaks (Carya spp., Liquidambar styraciflua, and Ulmus alata) affected flammability and related processes that consequently determine species composition. Using treatments of increasing non-oak leaf litter, experimental burns were conducted and flammability measured under field conditions, and a laboratory litter moisture desorption experiment was conducted. As litter composition shifted from oak-dominated to non-oak-dominated, flammability decreased (R2 = 0.59, P < 0.001) and moisture-holding capacity increased (R2=0.88, P<0.001). To prevent further shifts toward fireree conditions and loss of economically and ecologically valuable oaks, prescribed fire should be reintroduced soon while oak maintains overstory dominance and controls forest flammability.
USDA McIntire-Stennis grant #MISZ-069450
McDaniel, Jennifer K, "Mesophication of upland oak forests: Impacts on flammability via changes in leaf litter and fuelbed traits" (2019). Theses and Dissertations MSU. 3066.