Monday, 17 November 2003
Developing management options for fuel reduction in pine flatwoods of the Southeast
Myakka River State Park is dominated by fire dependent communities including the southern pine flatwoods type, which historically burned frequently with low intensity fires. Aggressive fire exclusion policies however, allowed saw palmetto and ericaceous shrubs to become dominant creating fuels that are more hazardous. As part of a nationwide integrated study, research is underway to access alternative methods for reducing fuels. Treatments were growing season prescribed burns, burning followed by roller chopping and burning followed by mowing. which were applied to 32 ha plots at three locations. Burning alone decreased palmetto and other ground fuels but they quickly began to recover. Two years after the fire, fuel weights were 75 percent of pre-fire levels. Chopping, however, delayed this recovery and because it killed some of the palmetto plants, could result in a permanent change in fuel loads. Mowing slowed regrowth only temporarily, and therefore was less effective. Thus, a combination of fire and chopping was the most successful treatment for reducing palmetto , which should reduce fuel loads, fire intensity, and wildfire risk.