U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Project Active ID: 05-2-1-29


U.S. Government Work


As a result of this most recent SPB epidemic (1999-2003), thousands of hectares of dead pine trees have created wildfire-hazard conditions in the southern Appalachians. One of the challenges for land managers is how to return fire to these ecosystems after (1) nearly a decade of exclusion, and (2) the more recent SPB mortality enhanced fuel loads. Higher fuel loads have the potential to increase fire intensity and severity. At the extremes, fires of high intensity and severity can have a large effect on ecosystem structure and function. The objectives of our research were: (1) to quantify fuel load reduction methods (pine overstory felling, material left on site followed by prescribed fire; prescribed fire only; and no treatment) in pine/hardwood forests heavily impacted by southern pine beetle induced tree mortality, and (2) to evaluate the effects of further restoration treatments including planting shortleaf (Pinus echinata) pine and seeding native bluestem grasses on ecosystem structure and function in these pine-hardwood forests. Eight sites on the Cherokee National Forest, eastern Tennessee were chosen to evaluate restoration of shortleaf pine ecosystems. Four sites were cut+burn (2 dry, 2 sub-mesic), two sites were burn only, and two sites were used as references. All eight sites had substantial pine mortality before the initiation of fuel treatments (Figure 1). Sites were cut in summer 2005 and burned in March 2006. All site measurements for vegetation composition and diversity, carbon and nitrogen pools, soil and soil water chemistry, and success of planted pine and bluestem grasses for the pre-treatment (2005) and two years post-treatment (2006, 2007) have been completed. We have provided demonstrations and tours to user groups, oral and poster presentations at scientific meetings, and three published manuscripts (2 proceedings and 1 peer reviewed). In addition, three peer-reviewed manuscripts, one MS thesis, and one proceedings paper are in progress (see Deliverables table below).