NJ Forest Service uses Forest Vegetation Simulator

Bill Zipse, NJ State Forest Service

The Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) from the US Forest Service, was used to simulate the effects of different combinations of different forest management treatments across the whole wildlife management area.  The fire and fuels extension of FVS was particularly effective in evaluating thinning and burning treatments in relation to wind speeds likely to carry a crown fire for pitch pine (Pinus rigida) stands adjacent to retirement communities on the west side of the wildlife management area.  Residents of the retirement communities were concerned about wildfire risk, however they still wanted to maintain the park-like aesthetics of the forest that they live next to.

Different combinations of thinning and prescribed burning were simulated along with a no action alternative.  The results were then tested against a simulated wildfire and the treatments’ response to the fire were evaluated.  A combination of thinning from below and prescribed burning proved to be the best simulated alternative for meeting all stakeholder objectives. This combination of activities also demonstrated longevity, with the effects of a single thinning having measurable impacts on crown fire risk for decades into the future, making this treatment a good value economically.

FVS is a collection of simulation models made freely available by the US Forest Service.  More information and downloads of the software are available at: https://www.fs.fed.us/fmsc/fvs/.

Fire History of Pine, Oak and Beech-dominated Forests in Southern New England

Jennifer R. Marlon, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies


Large wildfires are relatively rare today across the northeastern U.S., but small fires continue to be an important ecological process in a variety of settings. The North Atlantic pine-oak forests and barrens are adapted to periodic fire, for example, and fire has also long influenced forests with mixed red spruce, balsam fir, and hardwoods in northern New England. In some areas where fire has long been absent, land-use changes have altered fuels to increase fire hazard, threatening rare plants and biodiversity conservation efforts. Understanding the fire history of a place requires records spanning beyond the historical era because the patchy and infrequent nature of fires by definition makes them difficult to observe over short time periods. 


Charcoal accumulation in the sediments of lakes and wetlands, when undisturbed, can serve as a natural archive of fire history for an individual watershed. Networks of local sediment records across a broader area can show how levels of burning have fluctuated over centuries and millennia. To better understand the baseline variability of fire regimes in New England, a paleoecological study of 13 sites is in progress. Analyses of paleoecological, paleoclimate, and archaeological data are underway to better understand the interactions between fire, forest composition, climate change, and human activities during the past 2000 years. Preliminary results indicate that charcoal abundances (biomass burning) was highest in pine forests and lowest in beech forests. The lakes surrounded by oak-dominated forests had intermediate levels of charcoal. Biomass burning has generally declined during the past 2000 years at all sites until the arrival and settlement of Europeans, after which it increased. The new research suggest that the long-term decline in burning can be attributed to a gradual cooling and wetting trend, with shorter-term variations likely reflecting drought events and human activities. Further analyses will examine the extent to which biomass burning trends differ from those in the broader Northeastern US, and whether patterns of fire history reveal can reveal any insights into the importance of Native American burning throughout the region. 

The Nature Conservancy: Mazar property future vegetation plot analysis

Land Manager: Karen Lombard, Director of Stewardship and Restoration 

Organization: The Nature Conservancy

Type: Future vegetation plot analysis


Description: We hope to soon analyze some of our vegetation plots onthe Mazar property, a 101 acre TNC conservation restriction that abuts Mashacket Cove of the Edgartown Great Pond in the Kanomika Neck area . TNC also owns in fee about 10 acres of abandoned hay field and 4.5 acres of restored grassland/heathland on the adjacent MacKenty Lots. This property is part of what TNC has designated its “Edgartown Plains Preserve” which includes Katama Air Park and Herring Creek Farm. The land protection efforts that created the Preserve were intended to protect, maintain, or restore sandplain habitat, especially early seral communities including sandplain grassland and shrubland.

Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve: Future management activity/ vegetation plot analysis

Land Manager: Robin Weber, Stewardship Coordinator

Organization: Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Type: Future management activity/ vegetation plot analysis


Description: I hope to find funding support for a 200-250 acre burn on a heavily degraded portion of our properties comprised of coastal mixed forest and coastal shrubland with follow-up treatments in each of two subsequent years to include: prescribed fire, browsing, herbicide application, and mowing.  The intent is to monitor vegetation recovery to see which post-burn treatments are most effective at promoting native species recovery.

Historic and present day fire effects on Northern red oak in the tension zone and implications for increased abundance

Author: Natalie Laura Cleavitt, Research Associate, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University


Abstract: Northern red oak (Quercus rubraL.; QURU), a valuable timber and wildlife species, is predicted to be favored by warmer, longer growing seasons and become more abundant within the WMNF.  This highly desirable species is already being managed for in stands where it is present using shelterwood – prescribed burn sequences.  However, in order to understand the ecological potential of QURU to respond to climate change, greater understanding of the unique impacts of fire on oak regeneration from seed is needed.  If fire is necessary for high QURU regeneration success, then northward migration would lag climate change considerably.  However, relative to other species of oak, QURU has a more ambiguous relationship to fire,and a number of studies using different time scales and approaches have suggested that QURU can maintain itself on the landscape in the absence of fire.  Several Canadian studies have suggested that QURU can establish in larger forest gaps and may be mainly dispersal limited at the northern edge of its range. In addition, recent evidence suggests that QURU may be particularly susceptible to belowground interactions that likely affect its ability to regenerate though the implications for management of QURU regeneration remain unexplored.  We propose to leverage ongoing silvicultural management for QURU in the tension zone between oak and northern hardwood forest within the WMNF to increase our understanding of factors important in controlling expansion of this species northward in New England.  In particular, we seek to clarify: 1) the differential impact of historic disturbance by clearcutting versus clearcutting followed by fire on QURU in the WMNF; and 2) the comparative role of fire in QURU ecology, specifically in relation to site factors, particularly soil.  The results of this study will inform management and improve predictions for the rate of increased presence by QURU on the landscape with climate change.

Vegetation Sampling Protocol for Xeric Habitats of the Northeast

Written by Drs. Helen M. Poulos and Andrew M. Barton
Poulos Environmental Consulting, LLC

This sampling protocol was created to assess changes in vegetation structure and plant species composition in response to adaptive management activities (such as mechanical or prescribed fire activities) in grassland, shrubland, open canopy woodland, and various forest communities.

It was designed to work with the Northeast Regional Conservation Needs project addressing pollinator populations in xeric habitats led by Dr. Jonathon Regosin. This protocol could be adapted for any vegetation monitoring purpose and has been posted here as an example for others to adapt.

Stay tuned for the final document!

This project was supported by State Wildlife Grant funding awarded through the Northeast Regional Conservation Needs (RCN) Program. The RCN Program joins thirteen northeast states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in a partnership to address landscape-scale, regional wildlife conservation issues.


Multi-scale analyses of wildland fire combustion processes in open-canopied forests using coupled and iteratively informed laboratory-, field-, and model-based approaches.

Skowronski , N. et al. Manuscript in preparation. Multi-scale analyses of wildland fire combustion processes in open-canopied forests using coupled and iteratively informed laboratory-, field-, and model-based approaches.

Abstract: The goals of this research are to: 1. Improve understanding of the processes driving heat transfer, ignition, thermal degradation, flaming and smoldering combustion, mass consumption, and fire propagation at the scale of individual fuel particles and fuel layers in low-intensity surface fires; 2. Develop an understanding of how fuel consumption is affected by spatial variability in fuel particle type, fuel moisture status, bulk density, and horizontal and vertical arrangement of fuel components in low-intensity surface fires; 3. Increase understanding of the effects of multi-scale atmospheric dynamics, including ambient and fire- and forest overstory-induced turbulence, on fire spread and convective heat transfer in low-intensity surface fires, and; 4. Ensure that the measurements undertaken support the development and validation of physics-based fire behavior models using an iterative approach consisting of laboratory, field, and model simulations.


Evaluating the impacts of southern pine beetle on pitch pine forest dynamics in a newly invaded region.

Southern pine beetle (SPB), a native insect that has historically affected pine ecosystems in the southeastern U.S., has recently expanded northward causing extensive tree mortality in pitch pine and pitch pine-oak forests across much of eastern Long Island, NY.

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The estimation of burn severity using satellite imagery in a temperate deciduous forest.

New methods for evaluating burn severity across broad spatial extents, using satellite imagery, have enabled new opportunities for wildland fire managers and researchers.  While numerous studies have calibrated burn severity for forest types of the western United States, comparatively little research has been conducted in forest types of eastern US, where seasonality modulates wildfire occurrence and reflectance patterns of vegetation. 

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NJ Pinelands Prescribed Burn Research Project Video: Northern Research Station Overview of Project

In 2014, with assistance from the New Jersey State Forestry Services, U.S. Forest Service and international researchers from the United Kingdom and Russia teamed up to collect data on a prescribed fire conducted in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.

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