Restoring table mountain pine (Pinus pungens Lamb.) communities with prescribed fire: an overview of current research

  • Authors: Welch, Nicole Turrill; Waldrop, Thomas A.
  • Publication Year: 2001
  • Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
  • Source: Castanea. 66(1-2): 42-49


Table mountain pine (Pinus pungens Lamb.) communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains have been maintained historically by lightning- and human-caused fires. Characteristic stands have a table mountain pine overstory, a chestnut oak (Quercus prinus L.), scarlet oak (Q. coccinea Muenchh.), and blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica Marshall) understory, and a mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia L.) shrub layer. Following more than 60 years of fire suppression, most stands have increased densities of oaks and mountain laurel, as well as fire-intolerant species such as red maple (Acer rubrum L.) and white pine (P. strobus L.). Previous research suggests that restoration of these communities can only be accomplished with high intensity fires that open the forest canopy and expose mineral soil. Opportunities to conduct such burns, however, are limited under current prescribed burning guidelines. Two recent studies examined community response to prescribed burning. Fires of low and medium-low intensity gave rise to abundant regeneration, but may not have killed enough of the overstory to prevent shading. High-intensity fires killed almost all overstory trees but may have destroyed some of the seed. Fires of medium-high intensity may have been most successful; they killed overstory trees and allowed abundant regeneration. Large numbers of these seedlings survived the first growing season as their roots penetrated duff to reach mineral soil. Hardwood rootstocks resprouted after all fire intensities and may out-compete pine seedlings for available resources. Fires of lower intensity than previously recommended may best provide conditions for table mountain pine regeneration, but additional research is needed. Prescriptions calling for lower intensity fires may widen the burning window defined by current guidelines.

  • Citation: Welch, Nicole Turrill; Waldrop, Thomas A. 2001. Restoring table mountain pine (Pinus pungens Lamb.) communities with prescribed fire: an overview of current research. Castanea. 66(1-2): 42-49
  • Posted Date: April 1, 1980
  • Modified Date: August 22, 2006
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