Advisor

Alexander, Heather D.

Committee Member

Siegert, Courtney

Committee Member

Lashley, Marcus

Date of Degree

8-1-2019

Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access

Major

Forest Resources

Degree Name

Master of Science

College

College of Forest Resources

Department

Department of Forestry

Abstract

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.

URI

https://hdl.handle.net/11668/14504

Sponsorship

USDA McIntire-Stennis grant #MISZ-069450

Comments

prescribed fire||fire ecology||fuel moisture||fire suppression

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