Funded Research Projects: FOREST ECOLOGY

The consequences of soil heating for prescribed fire use and fire restoration in the South

Research Sponsored By: University of Idaho
Principal Investigator: Ernesto Alvarado
Project Description
Current understanding of the relationships between fuels, prescribed burning, and soil heating is limited in southern pine ecosystems, even though the region burns a higher percentage of its forests than anywhere else in the US. To fill this knowledge gap, we first will characterize the relationships among fuels, fire, and soil heating in two widespread forest types of the South: pine flatwoods and pine sandhills. Second, we will quantify second-order effects with clear management implications for ecosystem sustainability. Finally, we will determine the conditions under which existing soil heating models adequately capture the relationship between reaction intensity and soil heating using a spatially explicit study design. The primary question we will address is: “Under what conditions should fire managers in the South be concerned about soil heating, and why?” Based on previous studies and interactions with managers, we have developed the following objectives and hypotheses: Objective 1) To examine the relationship between prescribed burning-induced soil heating and fuels in two prevalent ecosystems using multiple in situ prescribed fire experiments Objective 2) To link soil heating under different fuel conditions to soil respiration (proxy for soil biota and changes in soil environment), tree stress and mortality, and seed bank germination success Objective 3) To evaluate the accuracy of existing soil heating models under different fuel conditions, to improve capacity for use in fire management and planning.