Ailanthus and prescribed fire: Is it a volatile combination?This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Throughout much of the Central Hardwoods region, the use of prescribed fire on public lands has increased rapidly in the last decade to improve oak regeneration. While prescribed fire can favor oak regeneration, its use may also increase risk of invasion and expansion of nonnative invasive species (NNIS). Although fire has often been shown to facilitate the expansion of NNIS in the Western United States, much less in known about the effects of fire on invasives in the Eastern United States. In 2008, a team of Ohio scientists and land managers initiated a Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) project to study how the distribution and abundance of Ailanthus altissima (Ailanthus) relates to recent prescribed fires, harvesting activity, seed sources, and other landscape and stand characteristics. We found that recent timber harvest activity was the best predictor of Ailanthus presence; prescribed fire was not a good predictor. We also quantified the direct effects of prescribed fire on the demography of Ailanthus populations, with and without a pre-burn application of steminjected herbicide. We found that after one prescribed fire, Ailanthus germinants and sprouts from topkilled saplings and trees were poor competitors with faster-growing post-fire woody regeneration as forest floor shading increased over time. This study demonstrates that prescribed fire alone does not appear to facilitate the spread of Ailanthus. These findings also suggest that further empirical studies are needed to address the combined impacts of fire and timber harvesting on Ailanthus invasions in eastern U.S. forests.