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Does the Lack of Reference Ecosystems Limit Our Science? A Case Study in Nonnnative Invasive Plants as Forest Fuels

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In forest experiments the problem of inadequate controls often arises. True controls might not be required in case studies, comparisons along an environmental gradient, or comparisons of multiple treated and untreated areas. In a recent characterization of fuels in invaded and uninvaded forest conditions for four forest types at 12 locations in Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, and Virginia, high-quality reference stands usually were not available as true controls. We called the uninvaded areas “comparison areas,” and applied a modified planar sampling technique to quantify live and dead fuels. No overarching pattern emerged; fuels in fire-adapted pitch pine differed from the three other forest types in that stands invaded by black locust had fewer 1- and 10-hour fuels, but more forbs cover and higher basal area. Invasive shrubs increased fuel height and density across most forest types. Invasive grasses in forests present an underrecognized hazard fuel if drought ensues. The comparison stand study design enabled uncovering of significant differences between invaded and uninvaded stands, especially in hardwoods and mixed woods, and fuels in softwoods were less affected by invasive plants.

Keywords: control; environmental management; fire; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; fuels; invasive plants; natural resource management; natural resources; reference conditions; wildland urban interface

Document Type: Regular Article

Affiliations: 1: Cooperating Research Ecologist and Past Chair The C1 Working Group 686 Government Road Bradley ME 04411, Email: 2: Ecologist US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station 686 Government Road Bradley ME 04411, Email:

Publication date: October 1, 2005

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  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.476
    Ranking: 22 of 66 in forestry

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