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Fire and the origin of Table Mountain pine - pitch pine communities in the southern Appalachian Mountains, USA

Brose, P.H., Waldrop, T.A.
Canadian journal of forest research 2006 v.36 no.3 pp. 710
Pinus rigida, forest trees, forest stands, stand structure, age structure, tree growth, forest regeneration, conifers, dendrochronology, growth rings, tree crown, wildfires, fire regime, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Appalachian region
The prevalence of stand-replacing fire in the formation of Table Mountain pine - pitch pine (Pinus pungens Lamb. and Pinus rigida Mill., respectively) communities was investigated with dendrochronological techniques. Nine stands in Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee were analyzed for age structure, species recruitment trends, and radial growth patterns to determine whether they had originated as a result of stand-replacing fires. The oldest pines date from the late 1700s or early 1800s. Continuous or frequent episodic pine regeneration from those times to the early to mid 1900s was evident at all sites. During the first half of the 20th century, all sites experienced large surges in pine regeneration. However, no clear evidence of stand-replacing wildfires could be definitively linked to these surges. Rather, the regeneration appeared to have been caused by noncatastrophic surface fires and canopy disturbances occurring together or by the cessation of a frequent fire regime. For the past 25-50 years, there has been little pine regeneration at any of the sites. Restoring the dual disturbance regime of periodic fires and canopy disturbances should help sustain Table Mountain pine - pitch pine communities in southern Appalachian Mountains landscapes.