Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Summer 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Department of Biology

Advisor(s)

Heather Griscom

Abstract

Each year, the U.S. Forest Service prescribes burns within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest (GWJNF). Burns are prescribed in the growing (late April-October) and dormant season (November- mid-April). The goal of the burns is to reinstate the natural fire regime, returning forests to their original species composition. Currently in GWJNF, Appalachian pine-oak forests are experiencing an increase in fire-intolerant species, while Quercus species and Gaylussacia brachycera, an endangered shrub species, are declining. In the summer of 2014, a vegetation survey was conducted on Buck Mountain, West Virginia to determine if there was a significant difference between dormant and growing season burns compared to a no-burn control. A total of 60 plots (15 per treatment) was established within a site burned once (in the dormant season), a site burned twice (dormant burn followed by a growing season burn), a site burned twice (both dormant), and a site protected from fire (control). We hypothesized that burns would have differing effects on woody vegetation, depending on fire treatment and shade tolerance. We predicted that Quercus species and G. brachycera would increase after a growing season burn. We found that Quercus ilicifolia regeneration, as well as G. brachycera were more abundant at burn sites, regardless of season. Our results suggest that seasonality of burns did not affect oak and G. brachycera regeneration at Buck Mountain. Future vegetation monitoring is needed to determine if time intervals between burns affects regeneration of desired species rather than the season of burn.

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