Date of Graduation

12-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Dynamics (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Graduate School

Advisor

Steven L. Stephenson

Committee Member

David W. Stahle

Second Committee Member

Johnnie L. Gentry

Third Committee Member

Fred Paillet

Fourth Committee Member

Malcolm K. Cleaveland

Abstract

Prescribed burning (also referred to as controlled or hazard reduction burning) refers to the use of fire under controlled conditions to achieve a desired end product or goal. However, the nature and magnitude of the changes that result from prescribed burning are still incompletely known, and this is especially true for the forests of the Ozarks of northern Arkansas. The overall objective of the research project described herein was to obtain the data necessary to develop a better understanding of these changes, particularly as they relate to the use of prescribed burning as a management technique in the Buffalo National River of north central Arkansas.

Twenty 10 by 10 m plots (10 in burned areas and 10 in unburned areas) were established in each of five different study sites (for as total of 100 plots) strategically located to represent different sections of the Buffalo River (lower, middle and upper). Data on the composition and structure of all strata of vegetation, plant debris and various soil parameters were collected from these plots or smaller subplots nested within the 10 by 10 m plots. Statistically significant differences occurred between burned and unburned plots for the values obtained for such variables as the cover of grasses, mean tree height, tree volume, surface litter biomass, and numbers of forbs, seedlings, saplings, shrubs/vines, and trees as well a number of soil parameters. These differences affect such things as species diversity, species composition and the availability of nutrients/minerals to the plants present at a given site.

There is need to assess both the quantity and quality of post-fire vegetation, the amounts of litter and coarse woody debris, and the changes in the chemical and physical properties of soil that result from prescribed burning. Developing a prescribed burning model for a particular site depends upon a number of factors, the most important of which are the differences in vegetation, slope, aspect, soil and micro-climate that exist from one locality to another.

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