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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 15(4)

Fuel loads, fire regimes, and post-fire fuel dynamics in Florida Keys pine forests

Jay P. Sah A E, Michael S. Ross A, James R. Snyder B, Suzanne Koptur C, Hillary C. Cooley D

A Southeast Environmental Research Center, Florida International University, University Park, Miami, FL 33199, USA.
B US Geological Survey, Florida Integrated Science Center, Ochopee, FL 34141, USA.
C Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, USA.
D Everglades National Park, 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead, FL 33034, USA.
E Corresponding author. Email: sahj@fiu.edu
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In forests, the effects of different life forms on fire behavior may vary depending on their contributions to total fuel loads. We examined the distribution of fuel components before fire, their effects on fire behavior, and the effects of fire on subsequent fuel recovery in pine forests within the National Key Deer Refuge in the Florida Keys. We conducted a burning experiment in six blocks, within each of which we assigned 1-ha plots to three treatments: control, summer, and winter burn. Owing to logistical constraints, we burned only 11 plots, three in winter and eight in summer, over a 4-year period from 1998 to 2001. We used path analysis to model the effects of fuel type and char height, an indicator of fire intensity, on fuel consumption. Fire intensity increased with surface fuel loads, but was negatively related to the quantity of hardwood shrub fuels, probably because these fuels are associated with a moist microenvironment within hardwood patches, and therefore tend to resist fire. Winter fires were milder than summer fires, and were less effective at inhibiting shrub encroachment. A mixed seasonal approach is suggested for fire management, with burns applied opportunistically under a range of winter and summer conditions, but more frequently than that prevalent in the recent past.

Keywords: char height; fuel consumption; path analysis; pine rocklands; prescribed fire; slash pine.

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