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 

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 

QUIC-Fire: A Fast Tool for Prescribed Fire Planning

Predicting fire behavior is complicated. Current modeling tools work to balance the interplay between many different factors including weather conditions and vegetation structure. Yet these tools are often underutilized because they require high-performance computing resources. Rodman Linn from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, with expertise from SRS researchers Scott Goodrick and Joe O’Brien and additional…  More 

Dead Wood, Insects, and Fire

Dead wood is a secret harbor of biodiversity. About one-third of all insect species are saproxylic – or dependent upon dead wood – at some stage in their life cycle. The effects of common forest management practices on this important resource and the insects that use it are understudied, especially in subtropical climates. USDA Forest…  More 

The Quest to Sustain White Oak Under Fire

White oak (Quercus alba) is an incredibly important species, anchoring ecosystems and economies. Current demand for white oak is surging due to its use in making barrels to support a growing spirits industry. Thus, there’s a real need understand the best tools to promote and sustain white oak in forests to support both economic and…  More 

Photo Guide to Fuel Loads in the Southern Appalachians

A new photo guide shows fuel loads in the Southern Appalachian mountains. A team of four experts wrote the guide: Adam Coates, a professor at Virginia Tech; Tom Waldrop, a USDA Forest Service research forester who is now retired; Todd Hutchinson, a research ecologist at the Northern Research Station; and Helen Mohr, an SRS forester…  More 

Impact of Fire Management on Breeding Birds in the Southern Appalachians

To increase the prescribed “burn window” for reaching restoration goals, land managers are now burning during winter (the dormant season) as well as spring and summer (the growing season) and fall. Management goals often include fuel reduction, oak regeneration, habitat improvement for target wildlife species, and forest restoration to conditions once created by Native Americans…  More 

New Directions for Fire Ecology Research

Fire is a complicated process that affects forests in diverse ways. Current methods for predicting fire effects on forests still largely rely on past observations rather than a deep understanding of how fire interacts with a forest environment. In order to more fully understand fire’s effect on an ecosystem, wildland fire must be viewed as…  More