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Project ID: 13-1-04-14

Year: 2013

Date Started: 09/30/2013

Ending Date:  08/30/2017

Title: Effectiveness of Joint Fuel Treatments and Vegetation Management in Restoring Eastern Upland Oak Ecosystems

Project Proposal Abstract: Fire suppression and concomitant fuel alteration of historically fire-adapted eastern U.S. oak and pine-hardwood systems over the past century present land managers with unprecedented challenges to restore these systems. Changes in interrelated factors of plant species composition, fuel attributes, and physiognomy in todays oak and pine-hardwood systems necessitate combinations of simultaneous vegetation and fire management to produce pertinent fuel conditions such that near-term and future prescribed fire behavior will better promote their restoration and sustainability. Hence, during the restoration process, metrics associated with the quantity and quality of fuels, and the plant species providing and benefiting from them, form the basis for measuring success. Within the framework of a currently ongoing study, treatment combinations of prescribed fire (growing season, dormant season), canopy reductions (light, heavy) and controls will be applied to 50-acre units across four study sites spanning the historical eastern U.S. oak ecosystem from western Tennessee and Kentucky to western North Carolina (~600 km). Treatments will be evaluated with respect to a number of restoration objectives, manifested in metrics associated with (a) reduced loading of heavy fuels (>100 hour); (b) increased herbaceous (i.e., grasses, forbs) fuel loading; (c) improved competitive position of oak and shortleaf pine regeneration; (d) reduced midstory density; (e) reduced stocking of fire-intolerant, mesic tree species in the seedling and sapling size classes; (f) improved herbaceous species richness and cover (especially grasses); and (g) more moderate fire behavior. In-kind support (e.g., timber preparation, prescribed burns) will be provided by managing agencies at each study site, and will facilitate project completion. Data obtained will be used to identify successful restoration treatment options, and to develop models that can be used by managers to predict outcomes based on the most easily measured and meaningful measures. Training and mentoring of a Ph.D. student is incorporated into the posed study, and deliverables such as scientific products (dissertation, peer-reviewed journal articles, and a dataset) and technical products (technical bulletin, conference presentations, field tours, and in-service trainings) will be provided to a variety of stakeholders. Outreach efforts will be interfaced through two Fire Learning Networks (Cumberland River and Southern Blue Ridge) and through two JFSP Knowledge Exchange Fire Science Consortia (Oak Woodlands & Forests and Appalachian), as well as through appropriate state prescribed fire councils. The chosen approach will effectively assess near-term success of fuel reduction options, predict likely fire behavior, and lead to effective long-term, sustainable restoration strategies not only in eastern U.S. oak and pine-hardwood systems, but also in other fire-adapted systems in the U.S.

Principal Investigator: Patrick D. Keyser

Agency/Organization: University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Branch or Dept: Department of Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Cynthia L. Nichols

University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Office of Research

Budget Contact

Cynthia L. Nichols

University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Office of Research

Co-Principal Investigator

Charles X. Kwit

University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Department of Plant Sciences

Co-Principal Investigator

Michael C. Stambaugh

University of Missouri-Columbia


Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network


Oak Woodlands








Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

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