Fire History and Age Structure of an Oakpine Forest on Price Mountain, Virginia, USA

  • Silver E
  • Speer J
  • Kaye M
 et al. 
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Abstract

Fire history is an important aspect of the natural disturbance pattern of many types of forested ecosystems. Nonetheless, many forests and corresponding management plans lack quantitative information on fire interval, frequency, and seasonality. This project examined the fire history at Price Mountain, Virginia, using fire scar samples and tree-ring analyses from live tree chronologies. Additionally, this project investigated the fire scarring potential of two little-studied species, black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) and sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), as well as described the age-structure of the current stand. We hypothesized that fire frequency would be high prior to the fire suppression era, given the proximity to an historical railroad track at the base of the mountain and susceptibility to lightning due to elevation. Six major fire years occurred between 1861 and 1925 at an average interval of 14 years, followed by a period of no fires. Two-thirds of the fires burned early in the season. There was an initial establishment of sourwood and chestnut oak (Quercus prinus) from 1930–1940 as well as another establishment peak between 1950 and 1960 after a major logging event. Pine (Pinus pungens and Pinus rigida) species established between 1870 and 1930. Reconstructed fire history and age structure informs land managers that repeated fires occurred in this Appalachian ridge top forest and that modern forest structure is in part the legacy of historic fires and fire suppression.

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Authors

  • Emily J. Silver

  • James H. Speer

  • Margot Kaye

  • Nicholas J. Reo

  • Lauren F. Howard

  • Alexander K. Anning

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