Some first-year wildfire effects on tree and stand characteristics on the Cumberland Forest, TennesseeThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
The summer and early fall of 2016 were characterized by an extended period of drought in Tennessee with as little as 3.8 inches of precipitation from August 1 through November 28. Subsequently, the fall fire season was exceptional in numbers of fires, the intensity with which they burned, and the severity of their impacts. One such wildfire burned 500 acres on the University of Tennessee’s Cumberland Forest near Coalfield, TN, in late November. A study comparing the impact of this wildfire on the burned forest with the adjacent forest was initiated the following June. In the unburned forest, 3.5 percent of trees were estimated as recent mortality (<1 year old mortality) at the time of plot establishment. First-year results in the burn area indicated 87.6 percent of measured trees sustained some damage and 14 percent were top-killed by the fire. Chestnut oak (Quercus
montana), the most common tree (n = 135), experienced 8.1 percent aboveground mortality, followed by yellow-poplar
(Liriodendron tulipifera, n = 47) with 12.8 percent, and red maple (Acer rubrum, n = 125) with 16.8 percent. Mean scorch height was 2.95 feet, 2.05 feet, and 2.04 feet for these species, respectively. Basal burn was 76.1 percent, 68.0 percent, 46.0 percent for chestnut oak, red maple, and yellow-poplar, respectively. Red maple located in plots categorized as burned by high-severity fire experienced 37.2 percent top-kill and another 39.5 percent were experiencing significant decline by the end of the first growing season. Plots with 15-year-old legacy shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) stumps had a mean fire severity of 3.7 (1-5 scale: low to high severity); plots without stumps had a mean fire severity of 2.8.