New study of Appalachian forest fire history

9 09 2011

A new study of tree rings and fire scars by Charles Lafon, associate professor of geography at Texas A&M University, describes the fire history of forests of the southern and central Appalachian Mountains. His findings are consistent with and relevant to the forest dynamics in California, and provide support the use of fire mimicry methods in mitigating forest decline.

Fire-scarred oak in Santa Barbara. Photo by Lee Klinger.

Here are some excerpts from the Science Daily report:

“We know that Indians often set fires to clear areas”

“Many tree species that inhabit fire-prone areas have thick, protective bark,” he points out. “Some trees depend on fires for their own reproduction. One such tree is the Table Mountain Pine. Through a feature called serotiny, its cones often will not open to release the seeds unless they are heated by a fire, ensuring that the new seedlings emerge at an optimal time to survive and grow — right after a fire has cleared away the competing vegetation.”

“The decline in fire frequency during the 20th century, for example, permitted tree species like red maple to encroach into pine and oak forests. Now the pines, oaks and other fire-associated species like the Peters Mountain mallow are declining in abundance”

Read the entire article here.

Note the similarity of these results to those from the study of oak forests from the Upper Midwest reported here.

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