High-Intensity Fires May Be Unnecessary For Stand Replacement Of Table Mountain Pine: An Overview Of Current Research
Abstract - After several decades of fire suppression, ridgetop pine communities of the Southern Appalachians are entering later seral stages and beginning to disappear. They typically have an overstory of Table Mountain pine (Pinus pungens), which is being replaced by shade-tolerant chestnut oaks (Quercus prinus). Previous papers suggest that high-intensity fires that open the forest canopy and expose mineral soil can restore these communities. Three recent studies examined plant-community response to prescribed fires of varying intensity. Four supporting studies help explain some of the results of these field studies. High and medium-high intensity fires provided adequate sunlight for pine seedlings, whereas medium-low and low intensity fires did not. Sufficient seedling densities to restore pine-dominated stands were present after all but the highest intensity fires. High-intensity fires may have reduced mycorrhizal abundance and moisture availability for new germinants. Fires of lower intensity than previously recommended or multiple fires of very low-intensity may best provide conditions for pine regeneration.