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A 400-year history of fire and oak recruitment in an old-growth oak forest in western Maryland, U.S.A.

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Abstract:

We document the fire history and associated ecological changes of an old-growth forest stand in western Maryland, U.S.A. The study area is located on the side slopes of a ridge system (Savage Mountain). Twenty basal cross sections were obtained from old trees cut in 1986, which provided evidence of 42 fires from 1615 to 1958. Nine fires were recorded in the sample trees in the 17th century, 13 in the 18th century, 12 in the 19th century, and eight in the early to mid-20th century. However, there were no major fire years after 1930. The Weibull modal fire interval was 7.6 years. Oaks recruited consistently from the early 1600s to the early 1900s, but there was increased Acer rubrum L. and Betula lenta L. recruitment with fire suppression after 1930. Species recruitment patterns and long-term fire history reported in this study offer important direct support for the hypothesis that periodic fire played an important role in the historical development and perpetuation of oak forests of the mid-Atlantic region before and after European settlement.

Les auteurs ont reconstitué l'historique des feux et les changements écologiques qui y sont associés dans un peuplement de vieille forêt situé dans l'Ouest du Maryland, aux États-Unis. L'aire d'étude est située sur les versants d'une chaîne de montagnes (Savage Mountain). Vingt sections radiales prélevées à la base de vieux arbres abattus en 1986 montrent que 42 feux sont survenus de 1615 à 1958. Neuf feux ont été notés dans les arbres échantillonnés au 17e siècle, 13 au 18e siècle, 12 au 19e siècle et huit du début à la moitié du 20e siècle. Cependant, il n'y a eu aucun feu important après 1930. L'intervalle modal entre les feux établi d'après la formule de Weibull est de 7,6 ans. Le recrutement des chênes a été constant du début des années 1600 au début des années 1900, mais il y a eu une augmentation dans le recrutement de Acer rubrum L. et de Betula lenta L. suite à la suppression des feux après 1930. Les patrons de recrutement des essences et l'historique des feux à long terme rapportés dans cette étude constituent un appui direct important à l'hypothèse selon laquelle la récurrence périodique des feux a joué un rôle important dans le développement historique et le maintien des forêts de chênes de la région mi-atlantique avant et après la colonisation par les Européens.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-08-01

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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