Effects of repeated growing season prescribed fire on the structure and composition of pine-hardwood forests in the southeastern Piedmont, USA
We examined the effects of repeated growing season prescribed fire on the structure and composition of mixed pineâ€“hardwood forests in the southeastern Piedmont region, Georgia, USA. Plots were burned two to four times over an eight-year period with low intensity surface fires during one of four six-week long periods from early April to mid-September. Density of saplings (0.25â€“11.6 cm diameter at breast height) was significantly reduced after one or two fires during the first four-year period. Sapling density declined with additional burning over the next four years, but density of mesic hardwoods including sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and red maple (Acer rubrum) remained relatively high (~865 stems haô€€€1). Repeated burning had little effect on density or basal area of trees (_11.7 cm dbh) and changes in overstory structure were limited to small increases in the quadratic mean diameter of all trees and pines. We found little evidence to suggest differential effects on structure or composition due to timing of burn within the growing season. Although repeated growing season burning alters midstory structure and composition, burning alone is unlikely to result in immediate shifts in overstory composition or structure in mixed pineâ€“hardwood forests of the southeastern Piedmont region.