Prescribed Fire Effects on Soil Fertility

USDA Forest Service researcher John Butnor wondered how dormant-season prescribed fire affects forest soil fertility in the months after a burn. Do nutrients from burned pine straw, grasses, and woody debris remain in the forest? Others have studied soil a year or more after a prescribed burn. Butnor’s research compares soil chemistry before burning and…  More 

New Species Named After SRS Research Entomologist

Twenty-five years ago, Brian Sullivan saw a fungus growing in bark alongside the small southern pine engraver (Ips avulsus). The beetle is native to the U.S. and commonly kills stressed pine trees. Sullivan, a USDA Forest Service research entomologist, examined the fungus. He identified its genus but could not identify the species – the fungus…  More 

Managing Oak-Pine Stands

About half of southern forests are a mix of oaks and pines growing side by side. In the past, getting rid of either the oaks or the pines had been a common management goal. “Pine plantations – stands with no oaks – have become one of the most recognizable symbols of forest management,” says John…  More 

Wildfire During a Drought? It Can Still Benefit Forests

In the summer of 2011, lightning struck a ridge near High Peak Mountain, on the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas. The High Peak Wildfire began. “It’s a remote and rugged area, and we were in the middle of a severe drought,” says Virginia McDaniel, a USDA Forest Service forestry technician, who led a study on…  More 

Life as a Radio Operator in the Communications Unit

“Communications, Taskforce Leader Peterson,” blurts the radio. “Communications, go ahead Taskforce Leader Peterson,” I say. “I would like to report a vehicle rollover on Highway 73. Please clear the airway for emergency traffic only.” The Communications Unit bursts into action. Someone alerts critical members of Type 1 Incident Command Team that we have an Incident…  More 

Silviculture for Open Forests

Grassy oak savannas and sunny pine woodlands were once a common sight across the eastern U.S. These open forests have fewer large trees in the overstory and a bounty of native grasses and flowering plants in the understory. Frequent fire limited tree regrowth and created the open canopy. USDA Forest Service scientist Don Bragg and…  More 

Top Ten of 2020

As 2020 comes to an end, it is a good time to gather our most-read CompassLive stories from the past year. Each one highlights the work of USDA Forest Service scientists at the Southern Research Station. We hope you enjoy reading this collection, which includes the most popular of 2020 plus a few more that…  More 

The Southern Pine Module Goes Virtual

In 2019, Janet Hinchee, the USDA Forest Service Regional Silviculturist for the South invited me to coordinate the Southern Pine Module, a ten day workshop for the Forest Service National Advanced Silviculture Program. The workshop is a key element of the agency’s program for National Forest land managers, especially district silviculturists, to obtain required silvicultural…  More 

Hardwood-Cypress Swamps, Unlikely Fire Hazards

In parts of the southeastern U.S., one unlikely forest type has great potential for extreme fire behavior: hardwood-cypress swamps. These shallow wetlands can work with their more frequently burned neighbors, pine flatwoods, to wreak havoc by easily igniting and sustaining tremendous wildfires, thus depleting carbon storage in these forests. Hardwood-cypress swamps and pine flatwoods are…  More 

Genetics of Shortleaf and Longleaf Pine in Seed Orchards

Shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) and longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystems have been dwindling for decades. Restoration is a huge priority for the USDA Forest Service, the Longleaf Pine Alliance, the Shortleaf Pine Initiative, and many others. Restoration requires seed, and on National Forest System lands the seed comes from USDA Forest Service seed orchards. The…  More