Monday, 17 November 2003
Dormant-Season Prescription Fires to Reduce Hazardous Fuel Loads on the South Carolina Coastal Plain: a 40+ year Study
In 1958, the Southeastern Forest and Range Experiment Station established a 40 acre study on the Francis Marion National Forest to compare the efficacy of four fire return intervals at reducing the hazardous buildup of fuels on Lower Coastal Plain sites. Plots were burned every one, two, three, or four years. Unburned plots were also established. The 5 treatments were replicated three or four times, each 2-acre replicate was separated by either a plowed firebreak or a road. Scheduled treatments have been applied every year since, and the plan is to continue to maintain this schedule into the foreseeable future. We present the analysis of the most recent census data, either the year 2000 for the four year interval and unburned stands, and 2002 for all other treatments. Live, fine downed fuel, and duff loads have been reduced significantly in all fire return intervals when compared to unburned stands. Within fire treatments, there was a continuum of treatment effects, with fuel loads decreasing with fire frequency. There was no difference among treatments for coarse downed and dead standing debris. There were significant differences among treatments in plant community structure, with shorter fire return intervals favoring herbaceous plants. We are currently synthesizing the entire dataset in preparation for more complex analyses of plot responses through time and will report these results.