Hardwood-pine mixedwoods stand dynamics following thinning and prescribed burning


Restoration of hardwood-pine (Pinus L.) mixedwoods is an important man-agement goal in many pine plantations in the southern Cumberland Plateau in north-central Alabama, USA.  Pine plantations have been relatively un-managed since initiation, and thus include a diversity of hardwoods developing in the understory.  These unmanaged pine plantations have become increasingly vulnerable to insects, and management activities were initiated to facilitate transition towards hardwood-pine mixedwoods.  We evaluated a combination of thinning and prescribed fire prescriptions in a randomized complete block design with a 3 × 3 factorial treatment arrangement and four replications of each treatment.  Treatments were combinations of thinning to three residual basal areas (no thin, light thin to 17.2 m2 ha-1, heavy thin to 11.5 m2 ha-1) and three prescribed burn applications (no burn, one burn to be repeated every 9 years, three burns repeated every 3 years).  Burning without thinning altered stand structure by reducing overstory stem density by 15 %, whereas thinning without burning reduced density by 70 % and burning coupled with thinning resulted in reduced overstory trees by 72 %.  Frequent fire had the greatest impact on midstory structure and regeneration.  Midstory stem density was reduced by 90 % following thinning and burning.  Oaks (Quercus L.) and red maple (Acer rubrum L.) were the most com-mon understory species after thinning only, burning only, and thinning com-bined with burning.  There were more oak and red maple seedling sprouts following frequent burning.  Currently, >75 % of red maple sprouts dominate the regeneration, compared to only 40 % of the oaks.  Although the treat-ments have accelerated the transition toward hardwood-pine mixedwoods, the fate of oak and which hardwood species will be dominant in the future remains uncertain.

  • Citation: Schweitzer, Callie Jo; Dey, Daniel C.; Wang, Yong 2016. Hardwood-pine mixedwoods stand dynamics following thinning and prescribed burning. Fire Ecology 12(2): 85-104. 20 p.
  • Keywords: Alabama, Cumberland Plateau, oaks, prescribed fire, red maple, regeneration, sap-lings, sprouts, thinning, William B. Bankhead National Forest
  • Posted Date: June 20, 2016
  • Modified Date: June 20, 2016
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