Pine Barrens of the Northeastern U.S. - Emily Dohlansky (2018)

Emily Dolhansky put together this report on the Pine Barrens of the Northeastern U.S. as part of her graduate work at Yale University.



Pine barrens forests of the Northeastern United States are characterized by sandy soils and fire-adapted plant communities. They provide critical ecosystem and human services, including water filtration, wildlife habitat, recreation, and biodiversity. These forests are threatened by fire suppression, pests, development, and other human pressures. It is estimated that nearly half of this forest type has been lost over the past 150 years. However, there are opportunities for private landowners, non-profit organizations, and the state and federal government to restore and protect the remaining pine barrens. Enhancing the ecological integrity of these forests will benefit the landscape and the human communities that surround them. 

This document is meant to serve as a resource to scientists and forests managers alike. It combines scientific literature with success stories from the field to offer guidance to landowners who wish to restore or enhance the quality of pine barrens. The author’s insights and contributions from managers throughout the region are reflected as well. 

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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.

Using Fire to Control Invasive Plants: What’s New, What Works in the Northeast" 2003 Workshop Proceedings


Meeting in 2003 on Fire and Invasives at the University of New Hampshire Extension in Durham, NH.

Using Fire to Control Invasive Plants: What’s New, What Works in the Northeast? was held on January 24, 2003 at the Urban Forestry Center, Portsmouth, NH. Over one hundred natural resource professionals gathered to hear from researchers and fire managers whose observations might not have been summarized elsewhere. These papers were not peer-reviewed or edited. They were compiled by Karen P. Bennett, University of New Hampshire Cooperative

Extension, Dr. Alison C. Dibble, USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station, and Dr. William A. Patterson III, University of Massachusetts. 

Fire Management Options for Controlling Woody Invasive Plants in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic U.S. (Richburg, Patterson, Ohman 2004)


Final report to Joint Fire Science Program, 2004

Abridged Summary:

Alteration of natural habitats by woody invasive plants is a concern for land managers throughout the northeastern United States. Invasive species – both native and exotic – can adversely impact plant communities and alter fire regimes. Although there is some information on the impacts of invasive species on habitats in the Northeast, few studies have addressed best management practices for controlling or eliminating these species and no studies have evaluated their impacts on fire regimes.

Timing Treatments to the Phenology of Root Carbohydrate Reserves to Control Woody Invasive Plants (Richburg doctoral dissertation 2005)




In the Northeast, land managers are combating the deleterious effects that invasive plants have on other species and natural communities with attempts to remove them or substantially reduce their density. Control methods vary depending on the target species’ growth form, the extent of the invasion, and other species and resources at the site. Mechanical treatment, prescribed fire, hand-pulling, and application of herbicides, alone or in combination, have all been used to attempt control.

Woody invasive plants are often difficult to eliminate due to their ability to sprout from stems, stumps, and roots. Successful control of these species requires understanding temporal variations in their below-ground resources. Total non-structural carbohydrate (TNC) reserves in the roots of woody species support growth following disturbance and generally follow an annual cycle of depletion and replenishment. This study evaluates the effectiveness of treatments when applied during periods of decreased TNC reserves.

Treatments were applied to seven invasive shrubs (Cornus racemosaRhamnus catharticaRosa multifloraBerberis thunbergiiLonicera morrowiiSmilax rotundifolia, and Cytisus scoparius) at three different sites in Massachusetts and New York. Treatments included cutting and/or burning, applied singly or in combination, in either the dormant or growing seasons.

TNC were depleted following all treatments. Dormant-season-treated plants, whether cut or burned, sprouted and replenished their reserves within the following growing season. For growing-season-treated plants TNC remained depleted longer, with a greater effect on plants that received more treatments. For most species studied, TNC recovered to pre-treatment levels by the end of one growing season without treatment.

Sprout growth was influenced by the extent of carbohydrate reserves present before treatment. Biomass and heights of sprouts were significantly lower in growing- season-treated plants than those treated in the dormant season, even when data were adjusted for different lengths of recovery time.

All treatments reduced the cover of the target invasive shrub. As the plants sprouted, they regained some of their initial cover and are expected to dominate without further treatment. Timing treatments to the cycle of TNC can increase the effectiveness of control methods, although repeated treatments may be necessary for several years.

Characteristics of Fuel Beds Invaded by Smilax rotundifolia (Ohman MS thesis 2006)




Invasion of grasslands by woody shrubs can alter existing fire regimes and give rise to problem fire behavior. Invaded areas are likely to burn less often but with more intensity. Abandoned pastures on Naushon Island, Massachusetts (USA) which have been invaded by the woody vine Smilax rotundifolia follow this pattern. I evaluated the usefulness of standard and custom fuel models for predicting fire behavior observed in a 0.5-acre (0.2-ha) experimental burn. Custom fuel model development required characterizing fuel load and fuel bed depth of the experimental burn plot – a task complicated a dense mat of vines with 100 % cover to a height of 3 to 6 ft (1 to 2 m). This was done by measuring the height of fuel beds, estimating 3-dimensional cover by modified point-intercept sampling, and harvesting live vines and leaves and dead woody and non-woody litter and vines from 1 m2 cubes. From these data, I developed regression equations to estimate fuel load using fuel bed depth.

The Modern and Historic Fire Regimes of Central Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts (Mouw 2002)


Tables and Figures.pdf>


The goals of this project were to determine how fire and vegetation have interacted in the past 150 years in the central Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts woodlands, and to use this information to determine what management actions could be taken to reduce both the current and future fire danger while protecting unique plant and animal communities. Data were collected from intensive and extensive vegetation sampling, as well as from the interpretation of aerial photos. Two fire regimes were defined for the area: the late historic (1850-1955) and the modern (1955- present day). Data were collected on Manuel F. Correllus State Forest (MFCSF) which comprises 5,190 acres (2,100ha) of scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia), oak woodland (Q. alba, Q.stellata, and Q. velutina), pitch pine (Pinus rigida) forest, and conifer plantation (primarily Pinus strobus, P. resinosa, and Picea glauca) vegetation in the center of the Island. The vegetation of the Forest has been subjected to frequent wildfires for as long as records are available and was probably burned before the arrival of Europeans in the early 17th century. Using the data collected, the stands of MFCSF were grouped into six vegetation types, and six fuel types. Six custom fuel models, which are assemblies of vegetation structure data that are used by fire behavior simulations to predict fire behavior, were then created from these six fuel types. Using the fire behavior simulators, BEHAVE and FARSITE, potential fire behavior on the Forest was then evaluated.