Fire Ecology and Management in Eastern Broadleaf and Appalachian Forests
The role of fire in the eastern broadleaf and Appalachian forest regions, until recently, was poorly understood or minimally examined, as this region was long overlooked as a flammable landscape and fire was seen primarily as a threat to the timber resource and wildlife. In the past few decades, a significant body of research has enhanced our understanding of fire and its effects. We now recognize that fire has strongly shaped many ecosystems of this region along complex geo-morphological gradients, and that returning fire, or its absence, has significant con-sequences for forest structure, species composition, and ecosystem function. This chapter synthesizes the state of knowledge regarding the prehistoric and historical roles of fire in these ecosystems; presents research demonstrating the effects of contemporary prescribed fire and wildfire on forest structure, species composition, and consequences for wildlife; examines evidence for shifting flammability of these ecosystems; and discusses the implications for both fire management and ecosystem sustainability in the twenty-first century.