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.

October 2016 Newsletter

In this month's Newsletter:

NAFSE's Activities: Canadian Fire Science Exchange Day, JFSP Governing Board Field Trip, Webinars
Interview: Tim Simmons: Conservation Ecologist with a Passion for Fire
NAFSE's Upcoming Events: Webinars, Field trips, and Workshops
Upcoming Events: Conferences, Webinars, Training Courses
Funding Opportunities: JFSP and NPS
Call for Research: Identifying Research Gaps in the North Atlantic
In The News: Great Swamp, Albany Pine Bush, Pennsylvania Game Commission
North Atlantic Fire Science Resource Highlights: Rx Fire Smoke Management Pocket Guide

May 2015 Newsletter

In this month's Newsletter:
Announcing our NEW WEBSITE
March Field Trip Recap
Smoke Modeling Resources
In The News: NJ's Stockton University, Senate hearings, and regional articles and news clips on this year's fire season.
Upcoming Events: NAFSE Webinar and Workshops
Fire in Eastern Oak Forests Conference
One Fire Day: Short Stories of Memorable Fires
North Atlantic Fire Science Resource Highlight: Ecological Effects of Prescribed Fire Season


NE Pine Barrens Management Techniques

Management suggestions, protocols, and results for Pine Barrens managment techniques.  Specifically, there are fire prescriptions, narratives of completed fires, custom fuel models, and fuels data that have been collected at a variety of barrens sites.

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Author: William Patterson - UMASS NE Barrens management techniques

Managing Fuels in Northeastern Barrens: Cape Cod National Seashore

In 1986, the National Park Service, in cooperation with the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, initiated applied research on the effectiveness of varying season and frequency of treatments on forest composition, fuel loading, and fire behavior on sixty, 0.1 acre plots at the Lombard Paradise site. Flammable shrub understories have been treated by brush cutting (mowing) or prescribed fire in either the dormant (winter) or growing (summer) season. All treatments are replicated three times, with treatments applied at 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-year intervals.

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Author: William Patterson - UMASS Fuel Demonstration Sites

Managing Fuels in Northeastern Barrens: Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area

Starting in 2000, small prescribed burns have been conducted on a portion of the Montague Plains WMA for ecological management and training purposes. Two main areas of management and research have been ongoing at the Plains since 2000: pitch pine crown fuels characterization and crown fire behavior prediction, and scrub oak fuels and biodiversity management.

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Author: William Patterson - UMASS Fuel Demonstration Sites

Managing Fuels in Northeastern Barrens: Manuel F. Correllus State Forest on Martha's Vineyard

Manuel F. Correllus State Forest (MFCSF) is located in Duke's County on the 100mi2 island of Martha's Vineyard , six miles off the south coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts . The forest comprises 5,190 acres of scrub oak, oak woodland, pitch pine forest, and conifer plantation vegetation in the center of the island. In 2003, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in cooperation with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst initiated research to evaluate various fuel treatment methods including: thinning of pitch pine stands, mowing of shrub understories, and grazing of regrowth by sheep.

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Prescribed Fire Management in Sandplain Grasslands and Heathlands: Impacts of Burn Seasonality and Intensity on Vegetation Composition, Head of the Plains, Nantucket MA

The effectiveness of prescribed fire as a tool for maintaining sandplain grasslands and coastal heathlands by reducing the encroachment of woody species and perpetuating important plant species has not been definitively documented (Dunwiddie, 1998; Niering & Dreyer, 1989; Vickery, 2002).

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Pine River State Forest Fire and Ecological Management Plan

Agency/Organization: NH Division of Forest and Lands, Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC)


Description:The purpose of the Pine River State Forest fire management plan is to identify areas within Pine River which will be managed with a combination of prescribed fire, timber harvesting, and mowing to restore significant areas of pitch pine - sandplain natural communities. Management goals and objectives, and the actions that will be implemented within portions of Pine River State Forest over the next five to ten years are discussed. The purpose of this plan is to serve as a guiding document for the Forest Management and Natural Heritage Bureaus within the Division of Forests and Lands. The plan is meant to be a working document that is modified as more knowledge and research is discovered. Key aspects of an ecological and fire management approach at Pine River are to: 


·      Maintain the pitch pine sandplain natural communities that occur on the Forest 

·      Enhance habitat for rare and state-listed Lepidoptera, early successional and shrubland nesting birds, and other wildlife species for which critical habitat is present on the Forest 

·      Manage fuels to reduce the potential for wildfire that may threaten life and property 


Management actions will include mechanical treatments to reduce fuels and improve habitat, and prescribed burns to maintain the pitch pine sandplain natural communities. Mechanical fuel reduction and treatments will include mowing of dense tall scrub oak and other trees and shrubs, and timber harvests to reduce canopy cover in selected areas to promote the recruitment and retention of plant species associated with the rare pitch pine sandplain types. Prescribed burning will be used to reduce residualfuels from mechanical treatments, to maintain the unique natural communities and habitats, and to reduce fuels. This plan provides for an adaptive management approach to balance the ecological needs of the unique natural communities and associated wildlife species with the need to reduce fuels. Monitoring, documenting methods, and reviewing results will direct future management. 

The Division of Forests and Lands will work with partner organizations to reduce hazardous fuels and apply prescribed fire to maintain natural communities and rare species populations in at least the six Special Management Areas (SMA’s). Over the next five years, approximately 254 acres will be treated using mechanical fuel reduction methods and prescribed burning (Map 2). More areas may be treated depending on resources and the results of treatment of this first set of management units. The Division of Forests and Lands will also work with partner organizations and landowners to reduce fuels within wildland urban interface areas.