Some animals like an open canopy and some don't! For those that do, mechanical thinning and prescribed fire can help create and maintain the habitat they need. This month's research brief covers a study by Dr. Micheal Akresh and his fellow researchers tracking the habitat preferences of the Eastern hognose snake in the Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area in Western Massachusetts.
In this month's Newsletter:
NAFSE's Activities: Webinars and Field Trips
Funding Opportunity: FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant
CPAW: Community Planning Against Wildfire
Comm-rep Corner: NJ Audubon, Interview: Tom Gerber
Upcoming Events: Conferences, Training Courses
New Website Resources: NAFSE research page update
In The News: Skeletal remains, Southern Fire Exchange prescribed fire perspective, Post-Gatlinburg lessons, Wildfire smoke in most US states
Podcast: On the Line
North Atlantic Fire Science Resource Highlights:
Photos: Cool photos from our region!
Fire Management Plan for Montague Plain Wildlife Management Area (Clark and Patterson 2003)
Prepared for Massachusetts Dept. of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Environmental Law Enforcement Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program
Prepared by Kennedy H. Clark and William A. Patterson III -University of Massachusetts
Montague Plain Wildlife Management Area (MPWMA) is a 1,512 acre property in western Massachusetts owned and managed by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. The primary purposes of the site are to protect and preserve an outstanding example of a xeric outwash pitch pine-scrub oak barren natural community and to provide public access for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and compatible recreational activities. This fire management plan (FMP) is a strategic plan that defines a program to manage wildland fire on MPWMA for ecological health and public safety. Fire management is needed at MPWMA to sustain and restore the health of the ecosystem and its component biota, and to protect on-site and off-site infrastructure and lives from wildfire.
MPWMA encompasses a glacial outwash sandplain with droughty soils supporting a pitch-pine - scrub oak community. The site also includes a hill with shallow, sandy loam soils that supports an oak dominated forest. One rare natural community and a number of rare plant, insect, and reptile species are known from the site. Pitch pine - scrub oak communities are the most fireprone vegetation types in New England, and significant evidence exists suggesting that fire was an important influencing factor on the vegetation of MPWMA for many years before European settlement. There are numerous fire and smoke sensitive areas surrounding the site including individual residences, businesses, highways, villages, and a small airport.
National Fire Plan
The New Jersey Forest Service has a critical need to refine the national Fire Danger Rating System so that it is specific for the Pine Barrens. We will address this fire research need in the Northeastern area as part of the National Fire Plan.
Master's Thesis by Matthew Duveneck FEBUARY 2005
Fire managers in the Northeast are increasingly concerned about crown fire development in pitch pine (Pinus rigida) P. Mill. Increased awareness of eastern crown fire problems has led to increased interest in predicting the development and behavior of crown fires in pitch pine. Models developed in the western United States exist to predict crown fire behavior. Managers in the Northeast, however, have relied on western data to predict crown fire behavior in pitch pine stands. Pitch pine-specific inputs to these models, most notably canopy bulk density (CBD), have not been available to northeastern fire managers. The objective of this study is to add pitch pine crown characteristics to the body of data on canopy fuel characteristics. Following destructive sampling of 31 pitch pine trees in Montague and on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, I developed predictive equations that will enable fire managers to predict CBD in pitch pine based on the indirect variable diameter at breast height (r2>0.93). To demonstrate the application of the predictive equations, I calculated the wind speed needed to sustain an active crown fire in a treated and an untreated pitch pine stand in Montague. The results indicate that CBD, calculated with the equations I derived, can be manipulated to reduce the threat of catastrophic crown fire.
Prepared by: William A. Patterson III and Matthew J. Duveneck
University of Massachusetts
Date: March, 1997 Revised: July, 2004
The modern fire management era began at the Maine Army National Guard Hollis Training Site in 1995 with initial efforts to characterize fuels and implement a prescribed burning program. The Hollis site is important ecologically because it supports unique Pitch Pine-Scrub Oak barrens vegetation which provides habitat for regionally rare moth, butterfly and plant species. The vegetation is adapted to fire, and fire suppression since the 1950’s has resulted in the vegetation becoming overgrown and in many areas dominated by gray birch, which shades out barrens species of lower stature and interferes with mobility during training exercises. Pitch Pine-Scrub Oak fuels are highly flammable, and infrequent fires lead to an increased hazard of catastrophic wildfire occurrence. A fire management plan completed in 1997 identified objectives including the reduction of fire hazard, increased mobility during training exercises, and the restoration and maintenance of pine barrens communities and rare species habitat. This plan provides documentation of the effectiveness of efforts to meet goals established in 1997 and provides guidance for future management activities.
ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION OF FIRE-MAINTAINED OAK WOODLANDS IN MASSACHUSETTS
BRIAN HOLT HAWTHORNE, B.A., WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY M.S., UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST Directed by: Professor William A. Patterson III
This study describes the results of a factorial experiment involving three levels of overstory thinning (none, moderate, heavy) and two levels of prescribed burning (no burn, burn) in three replicated blocks of upland oak forest in Pelham, Massachusetts to reproduce qualities of the fire-maintained oak woodlands that are thought to have existed in southern New England prior to European settlement. The primary aspects studied were overstory structure, soft mast (berry) production, and understory openness. A reference site in Worcester, MA exhibits an open understory maintained by frequent burning and supports a unique natural community of flora and fauna. Overstory thinning was completed in January 2001, and understory burning in June 2001. Two growing seasons after treatments, burning reduced the cover of understory shrubs (p=0.0002). There was a significant interaction (p=0.011) between the treatments with regards to tree species in the understory. Overall, thinning increased the cover of tree species in the understory (p=0.002), and burning decreased the cover of tree species for all but the moderate thinning treatment (p=0.04). The number of understory species browsed by wildlife was increased by both the thinning (p<0.0001) and burning (p=0.026) treatments. Neither treatment significantly affected overall species diversity of vegetation. Thinning increased production of soft mast (p=0.001) and increased available light to the shrub-level understory (p<0.0001). Stem density, flower production, and berry production of Vaccinium angustifolium were highly correlated with available light (p<0.0001). Prescribed burning increased understory visibility in the year following application (p=0.008). Horizontal foliar density (HFD) increased linearly with distance (p<0.001) and decreased with height above ground (p<0.001). The combined results suggest that the combination of overstory thinning and understory burning is a promising method to create woodland openings that meet wildlife, aesthetic, and recreation goals for public and private landowners, while restoring a rare natural community to the Massachusetts landscape.
Managing Fuels in the Northeast Barrens Publications
This website was last updated in May of 2013, but represents an excellent source of information compiled by Dr. Bill Patterson at the University of Massachusetts for his Joint Fire Science Program deliverable. The goal is to move all of the publications listed on this page to the NAFSE page.
Check out this research brief on Dr. Eric Mueller's most recent paper describing the instrumentation needed to measure prescribed burns in the pinelands of New Jersey. This type of research would not be possible without the help of local managers and should help them understand how fire will behave in their system.
WELCOME TO TICK SEASON IN THE NORTHEAST! Tick-borne disease is a huge issue in our region and prescribed fire could be one way to decrease tick densities for several years. Check out the latest NAFSE research brief on a study by Shane Tripp highlighting the interactions between prescribed fire and ticks in the North Atlantic region.
For another great resource on ticks and prescribed fire check out our March webinarpresented by Dr. Liz Gleim.
Click here for the Winter 2018 Newsletter from NAFSE
In this month's Newsletter:
NAFSE's Activities: Igniting Exchange Recap, Slides and Videos
Association for Fire Ecology: Conference Videos
Upcoming Events: Conferences, Webinars, Training Courses
In The News: 92-year-old Prescribed Fire Enthusiast, Fire Narratives
Scholarship: International Association for Wildland Fire
LANDFIRE: Meeting videos
National Fire Danger Rating System: Info needed!
North Atlantic Fire Science Resource Highlights: Science Analysis of National Cohesive Strategy
Photos: Cool photos from our region!
Title: Pine Snakes and Forestry: An Unlikely Match
Author: Bob Williams
A New Jersey Forester explains how pine snakes, though a threatened species, have co-existed and thrived in managed forests.
With limited available funding and the high cost of fuel treatments, fire managers in the northeast have been challenged with quantifying and prioritizing which lands are in greatest need for fuel reduction.Read More
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.Read More
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.
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.Read More
In 2017, the NJ Forest Fire Service, USDA Forest Service, the University of Edinburgh, and the Rochester Institute of Technology teamed up with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation to conduct a research burn in order to collect data on embers, smoke, and fire behavior.