USDA Forest Service

Logo of the FERA research teamFire and Environmental Research Applications Team


Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team
Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory

400 N 34th Street, Suite 201
Seattle, WA 98103

(206) 732-7800

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United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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Icon of a magnifying glassEffects of Season of Burning on Post-Fire Fuel Dynamics of Southeastern Forests

Land managers in the southeastern United States have actively used prescribed fire, primarily in the winter or dormant season, as a tool to control growth of understory vegetation since the middle of the last century. There is evidence, however, that burning during the growing season may have different, and in some cases more desirable effects on ecosystem processes, vegetation structure, vegetation composition and, by virtue of these factors, understory fuels.

We are conducting an experiment to document and test for potential differences in the rate of fuel re-growth and accumulation following prescribed fires during the dormant and growing seasons. In other words, as a fuel reduction treatment, do growing season prescribed fires have a different lifecycle than dormant season prescribed fires? We will attempt to test the hypotheses that fuels re-grow and accumulate more slowly following growing season fires, and that growing season fires change the structure and composition of the understory fuelbed to a larger degree when compared to dormant season fires.

The proposed study will measure fuel amount and composition annually following dormant and growing season prescribed fires for approximately three years in flatwoods ecosystems in two locations. This study will attempt to confirm anecdotal observations that fuel reduction from growing season burns last longer, and also that the structure and composition of the post-fire fuelbed differs between growing season and dormant season fires. Confirmation of these observations would allow fire managers to potentially lengthen the interval between fuel-reduction burns enabling treatment of more area as well as to employ more effective treatments for restoring the structure and composition of understory fuels in flatwoods communities that have experienced a departure from desirable, historical conditions. Where they are actively managed, flatwoods are treated with prescribed fire on a short-interval rotation, thus, despite its relative brevity, this study will provide a useful estimate of potential differences between dormant season and growing season prescribed burning at a timescale that is relevant for management.

Deliverables from this project include:

  • Refereed publication
  • Poster at a national fire science conference
  • Field demonstration/tour for fire management staff at collaborating locations
  • Paper/presentation at biennial Forest Service Southwestern Region Prescribed Fire Workshop
  • Website documenting design, progress, and results, and archiving data
  • Annual and final reports to Joint Fire Science Program

This project is anticipated to be complete in December 2012.

Team Lead: Clint Wright

Logo of the Joint Fire Science ProgramWe acknowledge funding from the Joint Fire Science Program under Project JFSP #09-1-01-2.

U.S. Forest Service - PNW- FERA
Last Modified: Monday, 16 December 2013 at 14:18:39 CST

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