Kleinman, J.S., J.D. Goode, J.L. Hart and D.C. Dey. 2020. Prescribed fire effects on Pinus palustris woodland development after catastrophic wind disturbance and salvage logging. Forest Ecology and Management 468: 1181173.
Scientifically informed strategies to manage naturally disturbed forests are critical to support the sustained provisioning of ecosystem goods and services. In fire-adapted ecosystems, catastrophic canopy removal can disrupt surface fuel continuity and challenge the continued use of low-intensity prescribed fire. Although salvage logging is used globally after natural disturbance events, little information is available on how salvage logging interacts with subsequent use of prescribed fire. This study investigated the impacts of operational-scale prescribed fire on Pinus palustris (longleaf pine) stand development in areas differentially impacted by an April 2011 EF3 tornado and a subsequent salvage logging operation. Twenty 0.04-ha nested plots were systematically established in mature, wind-disturbed, and salvage-logged sites (n = 60) to measure seedlings, saplings, woody fuels, organic litter, and mineral soil before and after prescribed fire. Prescribed fire-induced fine fuel consumption, mineral soil exposure, and substantial sapling density reductions were observed throughout the treatment area. Prescribed fire effects were not apparently impacted by salvage logging, which did not alter the amount of fine fuels available for prescribed fire consumption. Despite overall sapling density reductions, fire-resistant P. palustris saplings exhibited increased densities on wind-disturbed and salvage-logged sites. Pinus palustris seedlings, however, exhibited marked post-fire reductions, which contrasted with a strong resprouting response observed among top-killed hardwood species. Concerning woody plant recovery, this study indicated that salvage logging was not detrimental to P. palustris stand development and that prescribed fire effectively enhanced recovery in unlogged and logged wind-disturbed sites.