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Estimating Fuel Weights in Slash Pine-Palmetto Stands

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Weight by size classes of living and dead fuels was sampled in the understory and on the forest floor of stands of slash pine (Pinus elliottii) and mixed slash-longleaf pine (P. palustris) in Florida and Georgia. Parameters describing the overstory timber and the associated understory vegetation of each stand were measured. Saw-palmetto (Serenoa repens) formed the major understory fuel component. A series of dynamic fuel models utilizing age of rough and other independent variables was developed for estimating loading of the total fuel complex and various components of the understory and forest floor between ages 1 and 25 years. Models for understory fuel loading, which also utilize height of vegetation and percentage of area covered by palmetto, indicate that (a) total loading increases at a linear rate and (b) the fraction of dead fuel remains constant at about 26 percent with time. A vegetative growth model shows that understory height increases exponentially to about 1.7 meters at 25 years of age. Loading of the forest floor was modeled with a single equation for total weight based on stand basal area and age of rough. Estimates of loading for components of the forest floor were obtained by fractioning total loading with simple models based on age of rough. The dynamic fuel models show that loading of the forest floor increases rapidly for 5 years after burning and then decreases to achieve equilibrium at about age 20. The fraction of the total forest floor composed of L and F layers reaches equilibrium at 6 years. This series of equations provides detailed fuel inputs for use in fire behavior models and may be used for estimating fuel weights when planning prescribed burning and smoke management operations. Forest Sci. 24:345-358.

Keywords: Pinus elliottii; Serenoa repens; dynamic models; forest floor; fuel loading; understory

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Principal Plant Physiologist, USDA Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station, Southern Forest Fire Laboratory, Macon, Georgia

Publication date: September 1, 1978

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