Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Betula alleghaniensis


SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Betula alleghaniensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : BETALL SYNONYMS : Betula lutea Michx. [76] B. alleghaniensis var. macrolepis (Fern) Brayshaw [76,131] SCS PLANT CODE : BEAL2 BEALA BEALF BEALM COMMON NAMES : yellow birch swamp birch silver birch gray birch TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of yellow birch is Betula alleghaniensis Britt. [14,76]. A recognized form is B. a. forma fallax (Fassett) Brayshaw [131]. Yellow birch hybridizes with low birch (B. pumila L. var. glandulifera Reg.). The hybrid is named B. xpurpusii C. K. Schneid [76]. An additional entity formed by a backcross of B. xpurpusii and B. alleghaniensis has also been named: B. xmurrayana Barnes & Dancik [44]. LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : The range of yellow birch extends from southern Newfoundland, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Anticosti Island, the Gaspe peninsula, and Maine west to southern and southwestern Ontario and Minnesota; south to northern New Jersey, northern Ohio, extreme northern Indiana and Illinois; and south in the mountains to South Carolina, extreme northeastern Georgia, and eastern Tennessee [76]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White - red - jack pine FRES11 Spruce - fir FRES15 Oak - hickory FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood FRES18 Maple - beech - birch STATES : CT GA IN IL IA KY ME MD MA MI MN NH NJ NY NC OH PA RI SC TN VT VA WV WI NB NF NS ON PQ BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest K102 Beech - maple forest K106 Northern hardwoods K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest SAF COVER TYPES : 5 Balsam fir 16 Aspen 17 Pin cherry 18 Paper birch 19 Gray birch - red maple 20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple 21 Eastern white pine 22 White pine - hemlock 23 Eastern hemlock 24 Hemlock - yellow birch 25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch 26 Sugar maple - basswood 27 Sugar maple 28 Black cherry - maple 30 Red spruce - yellow birch 31 Red spruce - sugar maple - beech 32 Red spruce 33 Red spruce - balsam fir 34 Red spruce - Fraser fir 35 Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir 37 Northern white-cedar 39 Black ash - American elm - red maple 50 Black locust 57 Yellow-poplar 58 Yellow-poplar - eastern hemlock 59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak 60 Beech - sugar maple 107 White spruce 108 Red maple SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Yellow birch is usually found singly or in small groups [32], growing with American beech (Fagus grandifolia), maples (Acer spp.), particularly sugar maple (A. saccharum), ashes (Fraxinus spp.), aspens (Populus spp.), other birches (Betula spp.), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), red spruce (Picea rubens), and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) [25]. In the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest region, yellow birch occurs in mixed forests with red pine (P. resinosa) and eastern white pine, and with eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) [1]. Yellow birch is a dominant, codominant, or important species in northern hardwoods-red spruce forest, northern hardwoods, transition hardwoods-eastern white pine, and in central hardwoods-eastern hemlock-eastern white pine [28]. Yellow birch is codominant with yellow buckeye (Aesculus octandra) in western Great Smoky Mountains National Park [19]. In the Catskill Mountains of New York, yellow birch is dominant in some spruce-fir stands and codominant in most others. It occurs as nearly pure stands on steep slopes at higher altitudes, or mixed with black cherry (Prunus serotina), mountain maple (Acer spicatum), red maple (A. rubrum) and paper birch (B. papyrifera) in open, scrubby stands on ridgetops [86]. Small trees and shrubs associated with yellow birch include sweet birch (B. lenta), ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), striped maple (A. pensylvanicum), mountain maple, alternate-leaved dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), Atlantic leatherwood (Dirca palustris), witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis), American mountain-ash (Sorbus americana), Canada elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), Canada yew (Taxus canadensis), and mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) [32]. The largest concentrations of yellow birch are found in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Maine, upper Michigan, and New York. About 50 percent of the growing stock volume of yellow birch is in Quebec [32]. Publications listing yellow birch as a dominant or codominant species in vegetation classification schemes include: The natural forests of Maryland: an explanation of the vegetation map of Maryland [15] Field guide: Habitat classification system for Upper Peninsula of Michigan and northeast Wisconsin [24] White Mountain landscapes [36] A forest classification for the Maritime Provinces [79] A classification of the deciduous forest of eastern North America [88] Vegetation-environment relations in virgin, middle elevation forests in the Adirondack Mountains, New York [101] Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains [123] Classification of forest ecosystems in Michigan [126]


SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Yellow birch is an economically important source of lumber. The wood is heavy, strong, and close-grained. It is used for furniture, cabinetry, charcoal, pulp [14], interior finish, veneer, tool handles [29], boxes, woodenware, and interior doors [32]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Yellow birch is browsed by moose, white-tailed deer, and snowshoe hare. Deer consume large numbers of seedlings in summer, and prefer green leaves and woody stems in fall [32,104]. Yellow birch seeds are consumed by common redpoll, pine siskin, chickadees, and other songbirds [104]. Ruffed grouse feed on seeds, catkins, and buds. Red squirrel cut and store mature strobili, eat yellow birch seeds, and also feed on birch sap. The yellow-bellied sapsucker uses yellow birch as a summer food source [32,104]. Beaver and porcupine chew the bark of yellow birch [104]. PALATABILITY : Yellow birch was listed as a highly preferred browse species in northern hardwood forests [110]. In New Hampshire, white-tailed deer browsed birch twigs (both yellow birch and paper birch) at a browse index rate of approximately 4 (i.e., four times the expected rate based on availability) [104]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Early colonizers of a site denuded of vegetation by brine (used for well-injection fluid) included yellow birch. Soil salinity levels had returned to slightly above normal when initial colonization occurred [7]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Yellow birch can be tapped for sap which is used to make an edible syrup. Tea can be made from the twigs and/or inner bark [31]. Yellow birch chips can be used to produce ethanol and other products [13]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Numerous management guidelines for yellow birch and yellow birch-containing types [43,46,73,111], and recommendations for silvicultural treatments [68,98,113,114] are available in the literature. Shaw [104] reported on management considerations for wildlife in northern hardwoods. Harvest System and Regeneration: Yellow birch regenerates primarily by germination; very little advance regeneration is usually present [38,60]. Early twentieth century logging practices that favored shade tolerant species resulted in a decrease in yellow birch [84]. The effects of different harvesting systems and conditions on yellow birch regeneration have been studied and reviewed [70,92,109]. Harvest should coincide with good seed years [99]. Clearcutting small patches or strips provides suitable conditions for yellow birch seedling establishment in the Northeast [32,38,74,82,84]. Yellow birch reproduces well on patch cuttings of up to 0.3 acre (0.12 ha) [43]. In New Hampshire, strip cutting failed to increase the proportion of yellow birch in the stand but it did increase the percentage of yellow birch likely to become crop trees [47]. Group selection can significantly increase the proportion of yellow birch by creating openings for yellow birch regeneration [27,83]. In New Hampshire, after 38 years of group selection yellow birch comprised one-quarter to one-third of the trees in the 4- to 12-inch d.b.h. class. The pretreatment proportion was not reported; however, under single-tree selection yellow birch will usually decline to less than 20 percent, and sometimes to less than 10 percent, of stocking [27,72]. In the Great Lakes States, 20 years after group selection yellow birch had not increased in proportion to other species [34]. Shelterwood systems designed to increase the proportion of yellow birch have been investigated [46,49,64,115]. Seedbed Preparation: Scarification of seedbeds improves yellow birch seedling establishment [38], although the effects may be short-lived if organic matter is scraped away rather than mixed in with the mineral soil [64]. Yellow birch can be direct seeded after harvest in the northern hardwood forest zone [45]. Harvesting Considerations: Yellow birch is windfirm on deep, well-drained loam and sandy loam soils, but is subject to windthrow on shallow, poorly drained soils. It is susceptible to winter sunscald [32]. Yellow birch is sensitive to high soil temperatures and sudden exposure [43]. It is also susceptible to root, stem, and crown injury due to logging and is subject to insect attack as a consequence of injury. Top dieback and some mortality occur after heavy cuts in mature and overmature stands [32]. Damaging Agents: Yellow birch is susceptible to ice and snow load damage, and young trees are vulnerable to late spring frosts. Yellow birch is susceptible to injury at 3.5 ppm sulfur dioxide but is tolerant of ozone at 0.25 ppm [32]. Hacker and Renfro [48] rated yellow birch as slightly sensitive to ozone. Top dieback sometimes occurs following heavy seed crops [32]. Heavy or repeated browsing by deer and moose kills small yellow birch. Sometimes browsing prevents regeneration [62]. In New York, growth of yellow birch was not detected on postharvest plots that were unfenced [11]. Porcupine feeding damages birch crowns, reduces wood quality, and is sometimes fatal. Red squirrel cut new germinants [32]. Heavy feeding by yellow-bellied sapsucker reduces growth, lowers wood quality, and is sometimes fatal [32]. Yellow birch has relatively few species-specific insect pests, but is frequently attacked by pests typically associated with other northern hardwood species [5]. Insect and disease damaging agents are listed [32].


SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Yellow birch is a native, deciduous tree. It usually ranges from 60 to 75 feet (18-23 m) in height and up to 2 feet (0.6 m) in diameter, and occasionally grows to 100 feet (30 m) in height and 4 feet (1.2 m) in diameter [14,44,53]. Open-grown yellow birch crowns are long and wide spreading; in more dense forest crowns are short and irregularly rounded [53]. The trunk usually divides into a few spreading branches but lateral shade produces a straight trunk that extends nearly to the top of the tree. In dense stands the trunk is free of branches for over half the height of the tree [53]. The bark is somewhat lustrous, separating in thin layers [14] which exfoliate and result in a finely shaggy appearance [44]. On old trunks, the bark is deeply grooved and about 0.5-inch (1.2-cm) thick [25]. The root system of yellow birch is generally shallow but variable. There is a well-developed extensive lateral root system; roots spread horizontally or may penetrate more than 5 feet (1.5 m). Yellow birch is monoecious [32]. The fruit is a winged nutlet 0.13- to 0.14-inch (3.2-3.5-mm) long (not including the wings) [14]. Yellow birch is slow growing [32]. Average longevity is approximately 150 years, but maximum longevity is over 300 years [58]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Yellow birch reproduces primarily by seed; seedlings and young saplings will sprout but sprouts are weak and short lived. Older trees do not sprout [32,74]. Reproductive Age and Seed Crop Production: Under normal conditions, yellow birch first reproduces at about 40 years. Optimum seed production occurs at about 70 years of age. However, seeds have been produced by 7-year-old open-grown saplings, and heavy seed crops have been produced by 30- to 40-year-old yellow birch in open-grown positions or in thinned stands. Yellow birch produces good seed crops at 1- to 4-year intervals, usually with very little seed produced in intervening years [1,32]. Out of every 10 years, yellow birch averages 1 heavy seed year, 3.5 medium years, 4.5 light or very light years, and 1 year of seed failure [82]. The maximum number of successive good crops was 4 years [45]. Yellow birch is a prolific seed producer, and viability is usually good [32], although seed quality is variable from year to year [60,82]. Seed longevity up to 8 years has been achieved under laboratory conditions; under natural conditions viability drops off rapidly the second year [58,60]. However, Roberts and Dong [99] reported that a substantial amount of yellow birch regeneration was derived from 2-year-old seed. Seed Dispersal: Yellow birch seed is disseminated by wind, most of the seed falling after cold weather begins. The winged nutlets may travel up to 1,320 feet (400 m) over crusted snow [32]. Effective dispersal is approximately 2 to 4 times tree height [74]. Korstian [65] estimated that if yellow birch seeds are released from 50 feet (15 m), in a 5 mile per hour wind, 50 percent will fall within 700 feet (213 m) of the release point, and 90 percent within 820 feet (250 m). Seed Germination: Yellow birch seeds contain a water-soluble germination inhibitor. This inhibitor is inactivated by light. Under artificial conditions, seed dormancy is broken by stratification or by exposure of imbibed seed to cool-white fluorescent light [32]. Yellow birch seeds germinate and grow best on moist mineral soil enriched with humus; bare mineral soil and duff alone are unsuitable substrates [16,64,82,124]. However, in undisturbed stands, germination of yellow birch seeds usually occurs on mossy logs, decayed wood, in cracks in boulders and on windthrown tree hummocks [32,67]. Optimum germination of yellow birch occurs at 59 to 61 degrees Fahrenheit (15-16 deg C) [27]. A substrate pH of 2.4 completely inhibited germination, and pH 3.0 partly inhibited germination (50.7 percent) [94,96]. Seedling Establishment and Growth: Yellow birch seedlings require overhead light, crown expansion space, and plentiful soil moisture and nutrients to compete with faster growing associates; conditions found in gaps are conducive to yellow birch seedling establishment [1,32]. Some shade improves seedling survival [82]. In one study, heavily shaded (14-25% of full sun) yellow birch seedlings grew taller and had more leaf area than those in full sun, but unshaded seedlings accumulated more biomass [127]. Mortality of yellow birch seedlings is usually very high [121]. In one study, minimum mortality was estimated as 97 percent 14 months after germination. Seedling survival is better on disturbed microsites; seedlings that germinate on litter are unlikely to survive [26,40]. Seedlings surviving their first year survive to sapling and larger stages only where there is sufficient light [121]. Surviving seedlings in hemlock-northern hardwood forests occur on microhabitats with slightly lower canopy cover than in the surrounding area, primarily under coniferous rather than mixed canopies [26]. Growth is better on humus over sandy loams than on decayed logs, mineral soil, or litter [124]. Vegetative Reproduction: Greenwood cuttings of yellow birch have been successfully rooted and overwintered. Propagation by grafting is also possible [32]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Soils: Yellow birch occurs on moist, well-drained soils of uplands and mountain ravines [32]. It occurs on various soil types including glacial tills, outwash sands, lacustrine deposits, shallow loess, and residual soils derived from sandstone, limestone, igneous, and metamorphic rock [32]. In the Adirondacks, yellow birch occurs on soils derived from limestone, gneiss, anorthosite, sandstones, shales, and conglomerates [67]. The best growth occurs on well-drained fertile loams and moderately well-drained sandy loams [32]. Even though growth is poor, yellow birch is often abundant where drainage is restricted. Yellow birch occurs on muck soils with pH 7.5 to 8.0 [9]. In New York, yellow birch occurred on wetland soils with soil surface pH ranging from 4.0 to 6.8 [59]. Birches (Betula spp.) are sensitive to soil phosphorus [90]. Periodic droughts are damaging to yellow birch because of its shallow roots [55]. Elevation: In the Adirondacks and the Appalachians, yellow birch reaches its maximum importance in the transition zone between low elevation deciduous forest and montane spruce-fir forests. In the Adirondacks, it occurs at elevations ranging from 100 feet (30 m) to 3,413 feet (1040 m), but is uncommon above 3,000 feet (914 m) [10,39,61,67]. The lower slopes to about 2,310 feet (700 m) are dominated by sugar maple, American beech, and yellow birch. Between 2,310 feet and 2,970 feet (700-900 m) is a transition zone to spruce and spruce-fir forests. In the southern Appalachians the highest importance value for yellow birch occurs at mid- to high-elevations from 2,800 to 3,000 feet (853-914 m) [19,23]. In western Great Smoky Mountains National Park, yellow birch tends to be more concentrated in protected coves at lower elevations, and spreads out of the coves at higher elevations [19]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Yellow birch is intermediate in shade tolerance. Leak [71] assigned yellow birch to the category of persistent successional species. Yellow birch is described as opportunistic due to its habit of producing abundant small seed [40]. Yellow birch seeds comprised a higher than expected proportion (compared to the abundance of mature trees) of the seed rain and seedbank of a mixed forest [56]. The presence of yellow birch in mid- to late-successional stands depends on local disturbance [28,71]; it cannot reproduce under a closed canopy and requires soil disturbance and light for seedling survival [32]. Birches respond to gaps of all sizes, with a peak density found in gaps of about 2,800 square feet (250 sq m) in Pennsylvania. In the southern Appalachians, birches exhibited a peak density in 10-year-old gaps [102]. In southern Appalachian spruce-fir forests, yellow birch seedlings were the most abundant species in gap plots but not in closed-canopy plots. They exhibited the highest growth rate of any species in gaps [122]. The origin of the gap is apparently important; in upper Michigan, yellow birch apparently failed to establish readily in gaps formed by stem breakage because soil was undisturbed [87]. Yellow birch decreased between 1964 and 1986 in red spruce-Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) stands, even though there was loss of the Fraser fir to insect attack [18]. Yellow birch seedlings do not successfully compete with advance regeneration of other northern hardwood species, grasses, and forbs [32]. However, in sugar maple-beech-yellow birch forests, seedlings of the three dominants were approximately equally abundant [40]. In mature hemlock-hardwood forests in New York, yellow birch was the third most common seedling species, distributed randomly as to canopy type [26]. Yellow birch seedlings tend to occur in clumps. The abundance of yellow birch seedlings in Quebec was almost always negatively correlated to that of other tree species even though its seed abundance was positively related to that of other species [57]. Sugar maple seedlings produce an allelopathic substance that inhibits the root growth of yellow birch seedlings [112]. Early Successional Stands: Yellow birch is a common early to mid-successional associate in aspen-birch stands [28]. In northern hardwood ecosystems, yellow birch reaches maximum importance levels within 15 years of disturbance, and those levels are maintained for at least 100 years [81]. On Isle Royale, Michigan, a paper birch-dominated stand that originated after fire early in this century is undergoing canopy invasion by sugar maple and yellow birch [50]. In New Hampshire, succession was monitored after experimental deforestation and 3 years of vegetation suppression. Yellow birch comprised 0.6 percent of total biomass in the first year of succession, and increased to 11.8 percent in the nineteenth year [97]. Second-growth stands usually contain approximately the same percentage of yellow birch as virgin stands [32]. Yellow birch occurs on fine till with importance peaking at about 80 years. On sandy soils, the trend is indistinct, probably declining over time [71]. On old fields in Tennessee, succession included small amounts of yellow birch in 15-year-old stands. Yellow birch occurred at maximum density on 42- and 48-year-old plots, was present in lower numbers on the 63-year-old plot, and was not present in the old-growth plots [21]. Mid- to Late-Successional Stands: Yellow birch is abundant in mid- to late-successional balsam fir-yellow birch-paper birch-white spruce (Picea glauca) stands on Isle Royale [50]. It is a major gap-phase component of sugar maple-beech-yellow birch and hemlock-yellow birch cover types [32]. The age distribution of yellow birch in a virgin northern hardwoods forest was somewhat irregular: There were many 10-year-old saplings, no 40-year-old trees, and many 100-year-old trees [69]. In Wisconsin, even-aged northern hardwoods contain a high proportion of yellow birch and uneven-aged stands tend towards pure sugar maple [80]. In many old-growth stands, yellow birch gradually decreases in importance as the stand ages. In Tennessee, in both hemlock-mixed forest and mixed deciduous forest, yellow birch decreased between 1935 and 1987 in undisturbed stands [17]. Climax Stands: Cary [128] described a climax forest in Maine consisting of red spruce, American beech, maples, and yellow birch. Hansen and others [50] described a yellow birch-sugar maple type as the climax forest on Isle Royale, Michigan. These forests have not experienced major disturbances for more than 120 years and include yellow birch of up to 150 years of age [50]. Yellow birch was present in old-growth forests in New York. The average ages of yellow birch trees in two stands were 200 and 250 years [75]. Forcier [40] explained the presence of yellow birch in climax stands as a combination of longevity and micro-succession. At the single tree level, yellow birch is replaced by sugar maple which is replaced by beech, which, following a small-scale disturbance, is replaced by yellow birch [40]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : The pistillate catkins of yellow birch form in the fall, and finish development from late May to early June. The fruit ripens from late August to early September [32]. The phenology of yellow birch in northern Minnesota was reported as follows [4]: flower appearance April 2 to May 16 initial bud swell April 6 to May 1 leaf out May 3 to May 25 anthesis May 13 to May 29 seed fall (initiation) August 6 leaf fall September 26 to October 4


SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Yellow birch is susceptible to fire injury due to its thin bark [32]; young yellow birch do not usually survive fire. Mature trees may survive because the thin forest floor under large yellow birch does not usually support severe or persistent surface fire [90]. Yellow birch germinates readily on early postfire sites [91,92,115]. Forest Type: Heinselman [52] suggested that the presence of yellow birch in old mixed forests is hard explain without fire disturbance; however, other authors describe yellow birch as opportunistic with respect to fire but not fire dependent [90]. Lorimer [77,78] reported that the presence of yellow birch (in land survey records) is not a reliable indicator of previous fire. In Massachusetts, a beech-hemlock forest containing yellow birch developed on an island where fire had not occurred for many years. The land surrounding the island is occupied by fire-dependent pitch pine (Pinus rigida) and scrub oak types. In the 1940's the island forest was broken up by a hurricane, which corresponds with the age of many yellow birch [30]. Fire Frequency: Yellow birch typically occurs in forests with fire-free intervals of at least 150 to 300 years; the fire regime is characterized by crown and severe surface fires in combination [52]. The presettlement hemlock-northern hardwood forests experienced fire infrequently [2]. In Wisconsin, mesic hemlock-northern hardwood forests north and east of the transition zone between the fire-dependent prairie-savanna mosaic and nonfire-dependent forest probably experienced fire periodically prior to the fire-suppression era. The presence of large, late-successional species indicates that the average interval between stand-replacing fires was longer than the average lifespan of major tree species in the region [20]. In the Great Lakes States and Acadian Forest region, presettlement northern hardwoods-pine-spruce-fir forests probably had a semieven-aged structure where less shade-tolerant components were maintained by long-return interval disturbances such as fire or windstorms. Most fires in these forests were severe surface fires, occurring only after prolonged drought, and usually affecting forests that were breaking up due to other factors (and thus had heavy fuels). Estimates for Maine presettlement fire return intervals range from 806 to 1,923 years [77]. In the twentieth century, forest types containing yellow birch in New Brunswick have either experienced no fires or have had very long fire-free intervals. For sugar maple-yellow birch-fir in New Brunswick, the mean annual area burned between 1931 and 1970 was about 0.16 percent of the total area of that type [119]. A similar study for Nova Scotia reported that 0.03 percent of the total area (of sugar maple-yellow birch-fir) burned annually between 1915 and 1975 [120]. In northern Maine, hardwood forests were estimated to have a fire return interval of approximately 800 years [2]. Northern hardwood forests had estimated fire return intervals (from data spanning 1903-1956) of 910 years for Maine and 770 years for New Hampshire [35]. Fire Season and Conditions: At low elevations in the southern Appalachians, lightning-caused fires occur less often in the hardwood forests than in pine-hardwood forests. Fire frequency by forest type is related to the month of occurrence. Fires that occur before May usually start at higher elevations; after May, more fires start at lower elevations and are concentrated in the pine-hardwood type, possibly because after hardwoods have leafed out fuel moistures are too high to support fire [8]. In Maine, northern hardwoods are less likely to burn than other forest types, and are more susceptible to fire damage. Ignition and spread of fire are unlikely except during the most severe droughts [89]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Tree without adventitious-bud root crown Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)


SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Yellow birch seedlings and saplings are killed by even low-severity fires [32]. Small trees were killed by fire that left large trees in a northern hardwoods forest unharmed [105]. Large trees usually survive fire; Martin [85] mentioned the presence of large, old yellow birch that predate a fire that initiated a red maple-paper birch stand in Ontario. A subjective ranking of tree fire resistance compiled by Starker [106] listed yellow birch as twelfth out of twenty-two species rated. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Yellow birch is a poor sprouter following top-kill by fire. Seed germination and seedling establishment are enhanced by fire disturbance. Yellow birch frequently forms pure patches following fire. In Wisconsin northern hardwood forests it often comprises 60 percent of the hardwood thickets [80]. Most of the research on yellow birch regeneration is associated with logging regimes, so it is not clear what role fire plays in yellow birch regeneration in unmanaged stands. It is likely that a low-intensity, patchy fire would create conditions that favor yellow birch regeneration by reducing the hardwood leaf mat and exposing mineral soil, but leaving mature trees as a seed source [1]. In northern hardwood forests, postfire regeneration is likely to include at least a small proportion of yellow birch. Major postfire species in this area are paper birch, gray birch (Betula populifolia), aspens, red spruce, and pines (Pinus spp.) [32,89]. In the Laurentian Highlands of central Quebec, yellow birch is present in low numbers in early postfire succession on well-drained sites in montane mixed forests. The main colonizers are balsam fir and paper birch [22]. In North Carolina spruce-fir forests, which rarely burn, yellow birch was important in postfire regeneration [103]. Gibson [42] reported that former Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) swamps developed into red maple or red maple-yellow birch stands following fire. In northwestern Pennsylvania, a ridge that supported a dense stand of eastern hemlock and mixed hardwoods was converted by fire to a stand composed of red maple, black cherry, yellow birch, and water birch (B. occidentalis) [54]. In northern hardwood types in Wisconsin, low-severity surface fires seem to favor sugar maple over yellow birch and beech. Severe fires, however, destroy existing sugar maple reproduction and create openings in the canopy, favoring yellow birch. The composition of a northern hardwood stand was traced to three distinct fires, each of which was followed by an increase in the proportion of yellow birch [80]. Birches (yellow birch, sweet birch, and paper birch) exhibited a pulse of reproduction after a surface fire in Connecticut, peaking in density around 25 years. By 55 years after the fire birch density on burned and unburned stands was similarly low [117]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Regression coefficients relating bark thickness to diameter at breast height have been published for yellow birch [51]. The moisture content of the inner bark of yellow birch ranges from 44 to 65 percent, depending on season of sampling. The heat of combustion of dry yellow birch bark is 9,200 Btu [129]. Site Preparation: Fire has been used to create suitable seedbed conditions for yellow birch regeneration [1]. In New York, the number of yellow birch seedlings was higher on postharvest plots that had been prescribed burned and scarified than on plots that had either been prescribed burned or scarified, or on control plots [11]. Prescribed fires have been used for yellow birch seedbed preparation in Ontario. The fires were conducted in late fall, after sugar maple and beech leaf and seedfall and before the major portion of yellow birch seeds were dispersed. Low-intensity surface fires consumed litter and killed advance regeneration of sugar maple. These fires did not significantly reduce the number of stems (all species) greater than 0.6 inch (1.5 cm) d.b.h., though basal scarring was evident. Fire-prepared plots resulted in higher stocking of yellow birch than unburned plots, and reduced the development of sugar maple [6,16].


SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
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