Effects of prescribed fire in shelterwoods on residual overstory timber quality

by

Shannon Stanis, Mike Saunders and Jan Wiedenbeck

(MS)Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN (JW)Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Princeton, WV (SS)Corresponding author: 715 State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907; sstanis@purdue.edu

Abstract – Historic periodic surface fires within the eastern deciduous forest strongly influenced the dominance of oak species. Over the last century, however, fires have been actively suppressed and discouraged leading to midstories and understories dominated by shade-tolerant and relatively fire-intolerant species within oak dominated forests. There is a perception held by landowners and by society in general that prescribed fire reduces wood quality and value. This perception potentially prevents the application of prescribed fire for oak regeneration in the Central Hardwood Region. We aim to add to the body of literature studying quality and volume changes and fire damage in oak species through two studies. First, a long-term monitoring study is being installed on several sites across southern Indiana, specifically within studies sites of the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment and NSA-Crane near Crane, Indiana. Quality, volume of harvestable timber (with consideration to optimal bucking), and fire scars will be assessed after prescribed fire for several overstory trees on each site, with a focus on both mid-grade and veneer-quality trees. Fire intensity will be monitored near study trees and throughout the site. The second study retrospectively assesses tree quality on the Hoosier National Forest (HNF), which has a long standing prescribed fire program. Overstory trees throughout HNF will be assessed similarly to the first study, with particular attention to trees with a long history of fire exposure. Absolute and relative volume and value loss will be related to time since fire exposure. Results from these studies will be used to properly assess effects of prescribed fire on overstory timber quality in order to great the most effective land management practices for timber harvest and environmental concerns.