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Project ID: 16-1-07-2

Year: 2016

Date Started: 08/01/2016

Ending Date:  07/31/2019

Title: End-of-rotation prescribed fire: tree- and stand-level effects on quality and lumber value recovery

Project Proposal Abstract: In many parts of the eastern United States, land managers are increasingly using fire to promote regeneration of oak-dominated forests and restore oak woodland and savannah habitats. Prescribed fire, however, has its challenges. Fire windows are notoriously short due to the more humid climate, and smoke concerns often restrict use very remote areas due to the close proximity of many eastern forests to urban areas. Increasingly, loggers, timber buyers and mill owners perceive prescribed fire as quite damaging to the timber value, even though prior wood quality research and case studies have been mostly conducted in stands that had wildfire several decades prior. Prescribed fires are quite different than these wildfires; they burn at lower intensities and, when used for oak regeneration purposes, are generally applied near the end of an even-aged rotation. Therefore, many trees escape injury altogether or may be harvested before significant decay has materialized in any fire-caused wounds. Regardless, evidence is scant on the decline of stand level values from prescribed burning over time, and research is needed to quantify the actual (and not perceived) damage from prescribed fire in eastern, oak-dominated hardwood forests. We propose to determine the effects of prescribed fire on tree- and stand quality, resulting potential lumber grade recovery, and projected economic value. We have three objectives. First, we will retrospectively determine the relationship between average tree quality and time since inception of a prescribed fire regime in a mature stand. We will inventory up to 100 mature oak-dominated stands across 5 National Forests (NF) in the Central Hardwood Region and western Alleghany Mountains; selected stands will vary by length of prescribed fire regime. Second, we will determine the relationship between lumber value recovery and visual fire damage characteristics on the bole of standing trees. We will destructively sample up to 96 trees of four species groups (white oak, red/scarlet oak, red/sugar maple, hickory) from across 8 stands of differing fire regimes in each NF, and mill the butt log of those stems using common techniques and a common sawyer. The resulting lumber will then be graded and appraised for value. Lastly, we determine the relationship between lumber value recovery and fire history for oak-dominated stands. We will simulate the tree-level lumber value relationships developed in the second objective to the stand-level inventories gathered in first objective. This will give stand-level valuations of damage as it relates to length and severity of a prescribed fire regime. In sum, our results will determine economic impact to both tree and stand values from prescribed fire, and could be directly incorporated into Forest Vegetation Simulator, FOFEM, and other management models to inform cost-benefit analysis on the use of prescribed fire in many eastern forests. The proposed work includes over $209,000 of contributed funds and is leveraged by $1.1 million of related research efforts on state and federal lands in Indiana. We expect to produce four peer-reviewed manuscripts, present talks at several regional, national and international conferences, and multiple newsletter and other articles. This work will train a Ph.D. student and several undergraduate students on tree, log, and lumber grading. We will integrate this work into existing extension and outreach efforts of Purdue University and the U.S. Forest Service, including organization of field tours, web-based guides of fire wounding and associated defects, and a webinar hosted by the Oak Woodlands and Forest Fire Consortium. Data from this project will be in the Forest Service Research Data Archive and available on the JFS website.

Principal Investigator: Michael R. Saunders

Agency/Organization: Purdue University

Branch or Dept: Forestry & Natural Resources

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

David Garrison

Forest Service

NRS-Northern Research Station

Budget Contact

Terry R. Gross

Forest Service

NRS-Northern Research Station

Co-Principal Investigator

Daniel C. Dey

Forest Service

NRS-Central Hardwoods

Co-Principal Investigator

Janice K Wiedenbeck

Forest Service

NRS-Northern Research Station


Brian D Beheler

Purdue University

Forestry & Natural Resources

Funding Cooperator

Thomas M. Schuler

Forest Service

NRS-Northern Research Station

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network


Oak Woodlands








Hoosier National Forest




Mark Twain National Forest




Shawnee National Forest




Wayne National Forest




Monongahela National Forest

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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