Long-term Response of an Upland Oak Forest to Repeated Prescribed Fire

Our understanding that fire of mostly anthropogenic origin has been an important disturbance agent in upland oak ecosystems in the Central Hardwood and Central Appalachian regions prehistorically has led to increased interest in the use of prescribed fire by contemporary forest managers. In 1995 we began a replicated study of prescribed fire on oak-dominated ridgetops in collaboration with the Daniel Boone National Forest, a study that is now one of the longest-running prescribed fire experiments in the region. In 2015 we re-measured forest plots to examine the 20-year vegetation response to repeated prescribed fire followed by cessation of fire to determine burned sites differ from unburned sites in stand structure and species composition. We expect the results of this most recent sampling will guide future decisions about fire management, both for these sites and more generally on sites of similar species composition and structure throughout the region.

Mary A. Arthur, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus - Forest Ecology