Fire, Drought, and Forest Management Influences on Pine/Hardwood Ecosystems in the Southern Appalachians
Establishment and maintenance of pitch pine/hardwood ecosystems in the southern Appalachians depends on intense wildfire. These ecosystems typically have a substantial evergreen shrub component (Kalmia latifolia) which limits regeneration of future overstory species. Wildfires provide microsite conditions conducive to pine regeneration and reduce Kalmia competition. Recent droughts in the region have resulted in significant acreages of southern pine beetle killed pine/hardwood stands. Site conditions are amenable to the high intenstry fires needed to regenerate pine; however, fire suppression limits the role of wildfire in these ecosystems. Research shows that pines will not regenerate in the absence of severe disturbance, such as a high intensity fue, and mixed pine/hardwood ecosystem will not be maintained. Currently, some of these ecosystems are being slashed. burned, and planted with white pine (Pinus strobus) in an effort to restore site productivity. Our findings show chat high intensity prescribed burning results in substantial pine regeneration and re-creation of mixed pine/hardwood ecosystems.