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Project ID: 01C-3-3-01

Year: 2002

Date Started: 07/25/2002

Date Completed: 11/03/2004

Title: An Integrated Assessment of the Historical Role and Contemporary Uses of Prescribed Fire in Southern Appalachian Ecosystems

Project Proposal Abstract: Prescribed fire is increasingly used as a tool in the southern Appalachians to reduce fuel loads and restore ecosystem structure and function. A few studies suggest that fire regenerates hardwoods and enhances biological diversity when applied to certain forest cover types, but has differing effects on carbon and nutrient pools and nutrient cycling rates. While these limited studies provide evidence of the potential ecosystems effects of fire, little information (especially long-term) is available on the use of fire in southern Appalachian ecosystems, particularly in terms of ecosystem effects in mixed-oak or mesic forest types. We propose to conduct watershed scale studies on the effects of prescribed fire on ecosystem processes such as net primary production, nutrient and carbon cycling, and vegetation dynamics (regeneration, compositional changes, mortality, diversity) in multiple forest types. Long- term watershed experiments clearly show that water quality and quantity integrate terrestrial responses to disturbance, including fire. The watershed approach facilitates extrapolation of small-scale disturbances to larger landscape units. Several decades of interdisciplinary research at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory (located in the southern Appalachians) provides the backdrop of the range of natural variability of water quality and quantity, nutrient and carbon cycling processes, and vegetation dynamics. Our research approach will combine watershed- scale (water quality and quantity) and within watershed scale (plot level changes in nutrient and carbon cycling, vegetation dynamics) assessment of ecosystem responses to restoration burning. The objectives of the proposed research are twofold: (1) to document and synthesize information on the historical and contemporary fire regimes, and (2) to evaluate the effects of prescribed fire on ecosystem structure and function along a moisture/productivity gradient from xeric, pine-hardwood to mesic, mixed-hardwood ecosystems in the southern Appalachian region.

Principal Investigator: James M. Vose

Agency/Organization: Forest Service

Branch or Dept: SRS-Coweeta Hydrologic Lab

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Wallace W. Covington

Northern Arizona University

School of Forestry

Co-Principal Investigator

Katherine J. Elliott

Forest Service

SRS-Coweeta Hydrologic Lab

Co-Principal Investigator

Theodore L. Gragson

University of Georgia

Department of Anthropology

Federal Cooperator

James M. Vose

Forest Service

SRS-Coweeta Hydrologic Lab

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network


There are no project locations identified for this project.

Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

  ID Type Title
view or print   1017 Government Publication Stream Nitrate Response to Different Burning Treatments in Southern Appalachian Forests
view or print   1018 Government Publication Effects of Understory Prescribed Burning on Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata Mill.)/Mixed-Hardwood Forests
view or print   1019 Government Publication Initial Effects of Prescribed Fire on Quality of Soil Solution and Streamwater in the Southern Appalachian Mountains
view or print   1020 Government Publication The Role of Fire in Shaping the Structure and Foundation of Forest Ecosystems in the Southern Appalachians
view or print   1021 Government Publication Stand Restoration Burning in Oak-Pine Forests in the Southern Appalachians: Effects on Aboveground Biomass and Carbon and Nitrogen Cycling
view or print   1022 Government Publication Appalachian Fire History - Overview, Potential Sources, and Possible Directions
view or print   1029 Government Publication Effects of Understory Burning in a Mesic Mixed-Oak Forest of the Southern Appalachians
    2349 Journal Article Synthesis of Ecosystem Response to Prescribed Fire Across Gradients in the Southern Appalachians
view or print   303 MS Thesis Understanding Traditional Knowledge for Ecological Restoration: A Qualitative Study with the Eastern Band of Cherokee ( N.E. Cooley)
    230 Conference/Symposia/Workshop A formal workshop in summer 2003 to transfer scientific knowledge and discuss management implications.
  go to website 231 Website A section of the Coweeta website will be dedicated to management oriented interpretations of ecosystem responses to prescribed burning, with links to data sets and supporting publications.
    233 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Informal tours of study sites with natural resource managers, user groups, and the scientific community.

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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