Honors: All College Participants

Title

Effects of Prescribed Fire on Forest Structure and Species Composition in an Oak-dominated Landscape

Academic Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

Wildlife and Conservation Biology

Minor

N/A

List all Project Mentors & Advisor(s)

Paul R. Gagnon

Presentation Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Description

Among the variety of forest disturbances in the South, fire has been one of the largest influencing factors on structure and species composition. Forest structure within Southeastern oak savannas and open oak woodlands is characterized by open canopies and herbaceous understories that need to be maintained by periodic burning. In the absence of fire, ecosystems such as oak savannas and woodlands will experience increased canopy closure followed by an increase in shade-tolerant species such as Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) and American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), a decrease in herbaceous understory plants, and an overall change in microclimate. These changes in forest structure and species composition are part of a process called “mesophication”. Our study area, LBL, is one of the management areas in the Southeast that has adopted prescribed burning and mechanical thinning as a means to combat mesophication and increase the sustainability of oak forests. In order to better understand the forest structures that different management strategies create, we will study 20 sites throughout LBL that have been subject to 4 different management regimes.

Most of the initial data were collected in the field in 2014. For my thesis I will be collecting additional data along with running statistical analysis on the large dataset that currently exists for this project. I will be using R statistical software to analyze data for both the forest structure and the species composition of the forest at LBL. We predict that there will be differences in the forest structure between sites that have been burned and sites that have not been burned. Similarly, we predict that the composition of species will also be different among the different management types.

Location

Classroom 211, Waterfield Library

Start Date

November 2016

End Date

November 2016

Affiliations

Honors Thesis

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Nov 15th, 9:30 AM Nov 15th, 12:30 PM

Effects of Prescribed Fire on Forest Structure and Species Composition in an Oak-dominated Landscape

Classroom 211, Waterfield Library

Among the variety of forest disturbances in the South, fire has been one of the largest influencing factors on structure and species composition. Forest structure within Southeastern oak savannas and open oak woodlands is characterized by open canopies and herbaceous understories that need to be maintained by periodic burning. In the absence of fire, ecosystems such as oak savannas and woodlands will experience increased canopy closure followed by an increase in shade-tolerant species such as Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) and American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), a decrease in herbaceous understory plants, and an overall change in microclimate. These changes in forest structure and species composition are part of a process called “mesophication”. Our study area, LBL, is one of the management areas in the Southeast that has adopted prescribed burning and mechanical thinning as a means to combat mesophication and increase the sustainability of oak forests. In order to better understand the forest structures that different management strategies create, we will study 20 sites throughout LBL that have been subject to 4 different management regimes.

Most of the initial data were collected in the field in 2014. For my thesis I will be collecting additional data along with running statistical analysis on the large dataset that currently exists for this project. I will be using R statistical software to analyze data for both the forest structure and the species composition of the forest at LBL. We predict that there will be differences in the forest structure between sites that have been burned and sites that have not been burned. Similarly, we predict that the composition of species will also be different among the different management types.