Monday, 17 November 2003
The role of fire in maintaining Quercus montana and Q. marilandica communities at Kings Mountain National Military Park, South Carolina
Fire plays a major role in maintaining Quercus (oak) communities by creating favorable conditions for bird and mammal seed caching, reducing populations of insects which prey on oak seeds and seedlings, creating drier site conditions that allow more solar radiation to reach the soil, and reducing competition from fire-intolerant species. Before suppression, fire played a major role in maintaining the Quercus montana and Q. marilandica communities in and around Kings Mountain National Military Park (KIMO) in South Carolina. While lightening ignitions did occur, indigenous starts were more important in shaping the fire ecology of this region. Historic records indicate that forest communities in the KIMO vicinity had lower stem densities with larger, widely spaced trees. Results suggest that three years of prescribed burning at KIMO have significantly reduced the density of pole-sized trees (2.5-15.0 cm DBH). Trends in the data indicate that populations of the rare plant Xerophyllum asphodeloides (turkey-beard) have increased, and both fuel loading and densities of fire-intolerant species have decreased.