You are here: Home / Research Topics / Research Highlights / Individual Highlight

Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Fuel, Smoke, and Prescribed Fire in the Ouachita Mountains

Photo of A prescribed fire being ignited under controlled conditions to promote open woodland habitat suitable for endangered species in the Ouachita Mountains. Virginia McDaniel, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.A prescribed fire being ignited under controlled conditions to promote open woodland habitat suitable for endangered species in the Ouachita Mountains. Virginia McDaniel, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : Prescribed burning is a key tool in restoration and management of native stands of southern pines in the southern U.S., but the smoke produced by prescribed fires can be challenging to manage. Computer models are used to simulate the effects of prescribed burning, and research is currently underway to more accurately predict the smoke that prescribed fires produce.

Principal Investigators(s) :
McDaniel, VirginiaGuldin, James M.
Research Location : Management Area 22, Ouachita National Forest, Scott County, Ark.
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1040

Summary

In restoring native pine-dominated ecosystems in the southern U.S, a balance is needed between using prescribed fire at scales large enough to provide desirable ecological effects, and the production of pollutants and smoke that prescribed fires can produce. Managers use computer models developed in the western U.S. to predict fire effects, but there are questions whether those models accurately predict fuel consumption and smoke in eastern forests. In the Ouachita Mountains in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, prescribed burning is widely used to restore habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker which needs open woodlands to thrive; however, managers need more accurate estimates of fuels to refine models of smoke emissions that balance the production of smoke and air pollutants with burning areas large enough to recover woodpecker habitat. This study reports that the western models predict more smoke from prescribed burning than is actually being produced. Results from these findings will be used to build better computer models that predict smoke emissions more accurately, and that allow managers to recover larger areas of habitat for the endangered species.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Ouachita National Forest
  • Region 8
  • Arkansas Field Office, Nature Conservancy