Tuesday, 18 November 2003: 2:00 PM
Twenty Five Years of Vegetation Development since the Baxter Fire of 1977
Fire is widely recognized as an important natural disturbance agent throughout the world. Post-fire vegetation dynamics and subsequent management implications substantially differ in each region. Because north central Maine is believed to have a long return interval fire regime, the threat of catastrophic fire in one’s lifetime seems remote. However, with an apposite synergy of events, historical evidence supports that severe fires can and do occur in the Acadian forests of Maine. Knowledge of vegetation re-growth following these burns will improve predictions for forest dynamics in Acadian spruce-fir ecosystems. Evaluating the implications of interacting disturbances (pre-fire wind events, harvests, construction of fire breaks) on post-fire regeneration could facilitate future management decisions. Vegetation development following a fire will provide critical information to help refine historical fire regime calculations. Currently, no conceptual model of post-fire development exists for this region and research has been limited.
A series of interacting disturbance events occurred in Baxter State Park in Maine offering an excellent opportunity to study long-term changes in vegetation. In July of 1977, 1439 hectares in and adjacent to Baxter State Park experienced a severe forest fire. Much of the fire burned through areas that were blown down in a 1974 windstorm; some of those areas were salvaged prior to the fire, while others were not. In 1978, Sandra Hansen set up plots to represent the various stand conditions and measured vegetation composition and structure a year following the fire. My study will re-establish these plots and document current vegetation structure to improve our understanding of forest development. Specific research objectives are to: 1) Describe post-fire vegetation development in Acadian forest stands, 2) evaluate the influence of pre-fire disturbances on the post-fire regeneration process, and 3) examine effects of intense fire suppression (i.e. firebreaks).