Consumption and reaccumulation of forest fuels in oak shelterwood stands managed with prescribed fireThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
In the shelterwood-burn technique, a moderate- to high-intensity growing-season prescribed fire is essential to achieve desired oak regeneration goals. These levels of fire intensity are dependent on the increased fuel loadings created by the preceding first removal cut. However, the loadings of forest fuels and their fluctuation during implementation of the shelterwood-burn technique have not been studied. From 1994 to 1997, three mature uncut oak stands, three oak shelterwoods, and three burned oak shelterwoods in central Virginia were examined to determine fuel loadings before, during, and after implementation of the shelterwoodburn technique. Prior to the first removal cut, total fuel loadings averaged 10.5 tons/acre and this was evenly divided between small and large fuels. The harvest increased total fuel loadings to between 20 and 25 tons/ acre with nearly all this increase occurring in medium and large fuels. The prescribed burns consumed virtually all the small fuels and about half the medium/large fuels, but loadings for all size classes were 80 percent of pre-treatment levels within 3 years after the fires. It appears that forest fuel loadings in oak shelterwoods return to their initial levels within 5 years post-fire.