The influence of prescribed fire and burn interval on fuel loads in four North Carolina forest ecosystems
Prescribed fire is an important management tool in southern US forests, with more acres burned in the South than any other region of the US. Research from prescribed fire studies shows high temporal and spatial variability in available fuel loads due to physiographic, edaphic, meteorological and biological factors. In an effort to account for parts of this variation and contribute to the expanding southern fuels database, we measured forest fuels on sites in North Carolina’s Croatan and Uwharrie National Forests prior to and following prescribed burns. Results confirm previous findings that well-executed prescribed fires are an effective tool to reduce litter and live shrub fuel loads, especially on sites with high understory biomass; however, the increase in dead shrub biomass may contribute to future fireline intensity. Prescribed fire on these sites had almost no detectable influence on dead woody fuels. The use of site-specific shrub biomass equations had a significant impact on estimates of understory fuels.