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Individual Highlight

Repeated Application of Fuel Reduction Treatments in the Southern Appalachian Mountains: Implications for Achieving Management Goals

Photo of Each of the treatments created different stand structure and fuel characteristics. The control left an understory thick with shrubs. The mechanical treatment removed shrubs but created large loadings of woody fuels that required 5 to 7 years to decompose. Mitchell Smith and Gregg Chapman, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Each of the treatments created different stand structure and fuel characteristics. The control left an understory thick with shrubs. The mechanical treatment removed shrubs but created large loadings of woody fuels that required 5 to 7 years to decompose. Mitchell Smith and Gregg Chapman, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : Fire managers in the southern Appalachian Mountains have many questions about the long-term use of prescribed fire and mechanical treatments. Common objectives include restoration that creates open woodlands, oak regeneration, and fuel reduction. The southern Appalachian site of the National Fire and Fire Surrogate study has been burned three times and a mechanical treatment has been conducted twice since 2002. This Forest Service research provides information to managers about reaching each of these three management objectives using fuel reduction treatments.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Goodrick, Scott 
Research Location : Green River Game Land, Polk County, Saluda, N.C.
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1068

Summary

Fuel reduction treatments included prescribed burning, mechanical fuel reduction, and a combination of both fire and mechanical treatment. Mechanical fuel reduction consisted of chainsaw felling of shrubs and small trees in 2002. Prescribed burning was conducted in the winters of 2003, 2006, and 2012. Each treatment proved to be viable for southern Appalachian sites but produced differing results.

Stand structure was changed by each active treatment but none of the treatments restored the areas to open woodlands. Areas treated with a combination of mechanical fuel reduction and burning developed the desired overstory structure, but trees and shrubs sprouted on the forest floor, preventing grasses and flowers from becoming established. All the treatments increased oak reproduction, and also reduced the shrub layer. The degree of fuel reduction differed by treatment. Prescribed fire and the combination of prescribed fire and mechanical removal reduced most fuels and likely reduced the severity of a subsequent wildfire. The Forest Service scientists concluded that fires should be conducted more frequently in order to meet management goals.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Clemson University
  • North Carolina Wildlife Resources Agency

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