Effect of Prescribed Fire on Timber Volume and Grade in the Hoosier National Forest
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Low-intensity surface fire is prescribed in eastern North American hardwood stands prior to overstory harvest in order to improve regeneration and recruitment of oak and other fire-tolerant and fire-adapted species. However, this use of prescribed fire potentially can reduce timber value. We inventoried overstory trees (>10 in. diameter at breast height) in 54 oak-dominated stands with varied prescribed fire histories and aspects in southern Indiana. We then documented the extent of prescribed fire damage (i.e., wounds) to overstory trees and quantified both the relative stand volume of timber loss and the proportion of trees that had tree grade reductions because of prescribed fire. Generally, as a stand received more prescribed fires, more trees were scarred, the relative volume lost increased, and a higher proportion of trees declined in grade. Overall, burned stands experienced less than 10 percent sawtimber volume loss, regardless of the number of prescribed fires and aspect. Less than 3 percent of trees, studywide, had reduced grade because of prescribed fire. Grade and volume reductions varied by species, however. Our results suggest that prescribed fire has a minor economic impact on standing timber, particularly when timber is harvested within two decades of the first fire.
Stanis, Shannon; Wiedenbeck, Jan; Saunders, Mike R. 2019. Effect of Prescribed Fire on Timber Volume and Grade in the Hoosier National Forest. Forest Science. 65(6): 714-724. https://doi.org/10.1093/forsci/fxz039.