USDA Forest Service

Fire 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 magnifying glassDoes Season of Burning Affect Fuel Dynamics in 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 study is measuring fuel amount and composition annually following dormant and growing season prescribed fires for three years in flatwoods ecosystems near Tallahassee, FL (Apalachicola National Forest and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge) and Niceville, FL (Eglin Air Force Base).

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 St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge b urn, February 2010treated 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 Southeastern Region Prescribed Fire Workshop
  • Website documenting design, progress, and results, and archiving data
  • Annual and final reports to Joint Fire Science Program

arrowDormant Season Data Collection Complete for Southeast Season-of-Burning Study
FERA’s busy and hardworking field crew successfully completed dormant season burns for the season of burn study in Florida (5 burns at Eglin Air Force Base, 3 burns at the Apalachicola National Forest and 1 burn at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge).  They also finished pre-burn sampling for the growing season units that are scheduled to be burned later this year. (March 18, 2010)

Anticipated Completion Date: September 30, 2012

Project Lead: Clint Wright

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