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Northern Research Station
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Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
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You are here: NRS Home / Research Programs /Sustaining Forests / Understanding the ecological roles of natural disturbance / Fire and Fire Surrogate Treatments: The Central Appalachian Plateau Site
Sustaining Forests

Fire and Fire Surrogate Treatments: The Central Appalachian Plateau Site

Research Issue

[image:] Contigous US - shows locations of FFS sitesCurrent forests in many fire-dependent ecosystems of the United States are denser and more spatially uniform, have many more small trees and fewer large trees than did their presettlement counterparts. Causes include fire suppression, past livestock grazing and timber harvests, and changes in land use. The results include a general deterioration in forest ecosystem integrity and the threat of losing important, widespread forest types. Such conditions are prevalent nationally, especially in forests with historically short-interval, low- to moderate-severity fire regimes, such as the upland oak forests of the central hardwoods region.

Our Research

The Central Appalachian Plateau site is one of 11 sites across the nation investigating the effectiveness of fire and surrogate mechanical treatments on the restoration of ecosystem function to forests which developed under a regime of low-intensity, frequent fires. Each of the sites in the national Fire and Fire Surrogate (FFS) study installed three replications of the following suite of four FFS treatments were implemented at each research site:

  • untreated control
  • prescribed fire only, with periodic reburns
  • initial and periodic cutting, each time followed by mechanical fuel treatment and/or physical removal of residue; no use of prescribed fire
  • initial and periodic cutting, each time followed by prescribed fire; fire alone also could be used one or more times between cutting intervals

A major aspect of the common design for this study is a set of core response variables measured at all the research sites. Core variables encompass several broad disciplinary areas, including vegetation, fuel and fire behavior, soils and forest floor, wildlife, entomology, pathology, and treatment costs and utilization economics.

The Central Appalachian Plateau site of the FFS project is located on the Raccoon Ecological Management Area, the Tar Hollow State Forest, and the Zaleski State Forest in southeastern Ohio. The study consists of four treatments on the three study areas resulting in 12 experimental units. Treatment units (about 20 ha (50 acres)) are forest stands or portions of larger stands all having irregular boundaries. A 50x50 m grid of points was established on the ground with a Global Positioning System (GPS) to study landscape changes.  Ten 20x50 m plots are located within each treatment area to measure the effects on distinct portions of the ecosystem.

The robust experimental design of the FFS study is ideal for collaborative studies that other scientists may have in mind. As such, we encourage others to work with us in expanding our project to other subject areas. For example, the Central Appalachian Plateau site of the FFS study has supported collaborative studies on bats, American chestnut, earthworms, cerulean warblers, soil moisture, fire history among others. While funded independently, each of these projects benefits through an existing experimental framework that includes replicated treatments, random selection of experimental units of a minimum size, and reliable agreements with local managers to insure the maintenance of site conditions through time. If you have a project that may be suitable for collaborating with one or more FFS sites, please contact Dan Yaussy.

Expected Outcomes

Results from the Central Appalachian Plateau site of the FFS study have already been used to help develop the Wayne National Forest Land and Resources Management Plan and the Ohio Division of Forestry prescribed fire program.

Research Results

Iverson, Louis R; Hutchinson, Todd F.; Prasad, Anantha M.; Peters, Matthew P. 2007. Thinning, fire, and oak regeneration across a heterogeneous landscape in the eastern U.S.: 7-year results, Forest Ecol. Manage.

More than 140 publications have resulted from the national FFS study.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • Dan Yaussy, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station Supervisory Research Forester

Research Partners

  • Bob Long, USDA Forest Service- Northern Research Staion Supervisory Research Plant Pathologist
  • Todd Hutchinson, USDA Forest Service- Northern Research Staion Ecologist
  • Joanne Rebbeck, USDA Forest Service- Northern Research Staion Plant Physiologist
  • Louis Iverson, USDA Forest Service- Northern Research Staion Landscape Ecologist
  • Ralph Boerner, Ohio State University
  • Brian McCarthy, Ohio University
  • Don Miles, Ohio University
  • Roger Williams, Ohio State University
  • Mike Bowden, Ohio Division of Forestry
  • Chad Sanders, Ohio Division of Forestry

Last Modified: 01/15/2010