Characterizing Canopy Fuels as They Affect Fire Behavior in Pitch Pine

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.

Ecological Restoration of Fire-Maintained Oak Woodlands in Massachusetts (Hawthorne MS thesis 2004)


MAY 2004


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.

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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Islands of Pine: Future Climate Scenarios in the NJ Pinelands using the LANDIS-II Forest Landscape Disturbance and Succession Model

Assessing forest resilience to disturbances including climate change is an important aspect of adaptive management. Climate change impacts on fire and forest composition in the Pinelands of New Jersey have not been assessed to date and the prospect of major shifts in forest composition present challenges to the mission of the Pinelands National Reserve to preserve the ecological integrity of the Pinelands.

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Landscape Disturbance and Succession Modeling in the Pinelands of New Jersey using LANDIS-II: The Implications of Human Influence on Fire and Forest Composition

Coupled human-natural systems present complex relationships between human influence and ecosystem response and services. The Pinelands of New Jersey represent a highly human influenced system noted for its fire regime which helps maintain pinelands cover and halt succession from pine to oak forest composition.

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