The Effects of Brush Cutting and Burning on Fuel Beds and Fire Behavior in Pine-Oak Forests of Cape Cod National Seashore (Norton-Jensen 2005)

Class report.pdf>

John Norton-Jensen

Department of Natural Resources Conservation University of Massachusetts at Amherst

May 2005

in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for


Partial Abstract:

Pine-oak forests comprise 46% of the vegetation of Cape Cod National Seashore. Flammable ericaceous shrubs, especially Gaylussachia baccata, dominate the understories and combined with heavy litter fuel loads increase the probability of intense surface fires. Past research has evaluated the use of brush cutting and prescribed burning to reduce fire hazard and to construct custom fuel models to predict fire behavior. Results suggest that the two treatments combined will better accomplish this goal than when they are applied separately. The goal of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of combined treatments.

Wildland Fuel Management Options for the Central Plains of Martha’s Vineyard: Impacts on Fuel Loads, Fire Behavior and Rare Plant and Insect Species (Patterson, Clarke, Haggerty, et al. May 2005)

Manuel F. Correllus State Forest JFSP Report: "Wildland Fuel Management Options for the Central Plains of Martha’s Vineyard: Impacts on Fuel Loads, Fire Behavior and Rare Plant and Insect Species" (Patterson, Clarke, Haggerty, et al. May 2005) 


Eighty-three page final report submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation - 2005

Land Management Implications for Hemileuca maia (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae) Habitat at Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts (Haggerty MS thesis 2006)




Early seral habitats in the northeastern U.S. are being threatened by succession brought on by the alteration of natural ecosystem dynamics (Noss 1995). In fire- dependent systems such as sandplain barrens, this is compounded by the threat of catastrophic fire from increased fuel loads created by long-term fire suppression. Efforts are currently underway in many areas to restore open habitats through the reintroduction of natural disturbances or by alternative techniques which mimic their effects. In fire prone systems, the goal of these efforts is twofold: 1) to reduce fire danger in areas with heavy fuel loads and 2) to restore natural open habitats. The effects of such management on the native insect species, including rare species dependent on open systems, are just beginning to be examined (Swengel 2001, Swengel and Swengel 2001, Panzer and Schwartz 2002).

Distribution of Rare Plants on the Central Plain of Martha's Vineyard: Implications for Conservation and Management (Clarke MS thesis 2006)




Rare plants in coastal New England sandplains are often restricted to sites disturbed by humans. On the central plain of Martha’s Vineyard, which has one of the highest concentrations of rare plant species in Massachusetts, disturbances include plowed and mowed firelanes. Little is known about pre-European rare plant habitat or how modern management impacts these species. To better understand the factors influencing the distribution of rare plants in coastal habitats, I examined the influence of vegetation structure, species composition, environmental characteristics and disturbance history on existing rare plant populations and potential natural habitat in the 2100-ha Manuel F. Correllus State Forest. This was accomplished by sampling more than 100, 100-m2 plots in firelanes (including 22 at rare plant occurrences) and forested/shrubland areas. I also conducted extensive searches for rare species.

Research Brief: Fire and Wildlife- Eastern hognose snakes prefer managed habitat

Photo by Micheal Jewel via Flickr

Photo by Micheal Jewel via Flickr

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.

Research Brief.pdf>

Fire Management Plan for Montague Plain Wildlife Management Area (Clark and Patterson 2003)

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

July, 2003


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.

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.

Fire Management Plan for the Maine Army National Guard Hollis Training Site, York County, Maine (Patterson and Duveneck revised 2004)

Prepared by: William A. Patterson III and Matthew J. Duveneck

Forestry Program
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.

Northeast Barrens Website (not maintained): Legacy Publications

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.

Website Link>

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.

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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Monitoring techniques: Using citizen science to gather fuels data

Technology is a wonderful thing. Especially if it makes your job easier. Check out this research brief on a smartphone app designed to engage the public in estimating forest fuels. See how well professionals compared to non-professionals while using the app.