Fire-adapted forest ecosystems make up 95 percent of the historic Coastal Plain vegetation types in the Southeastern United States. Fire suppression over the last century has altered the species composition of these ecosystems, increased fuel loads, and increased wildfire risk. Prescribed fire is one management tool used to reduce fuel loading and restore fire-adapted species, but little information exists on the presettlement extent and location of fire-dependent ecosystems at a level of detail useful to guide land management decisions at the local spatial scale. In an effort to close this knowledge gap, the principles of landscape fire ecology have been applied to develop a detailed presettlement fire regime map for ~200,000 acres of Coastal Plain ecosystems. Factors evaluated include the effects of fire compartment size in the original landscape, fire barriers, fire filters, prevailing wind direction during fire season, topographic and soil factors affecting fire intensity, fire frequency, fire spread, and fire effects on vegetation. The fire regime map was then combined with remnant fire-adapted vegetation surveys, historic aerial photography, digital elevation models, and soil survey information to create a map of presettlement vegetation. This map is being used to develop prescribed burning plans that restore original fire regimes, guide the use of prescribed fire as a management tool, restore fire-adapted vegetation structure and understory species diversity for threatened and endangered species, and enhance ecosystem sustainability.
wildland fire management
landscape fire ecology
Bailey, Andrew D.; Mickler, Robert; Frost, Cecil. 2007. Presettlement fire regime and vegetation mapping in Southeastern Coastal Plain forest ecosystems. In: Butler, Bret W.; Cook, Wayne, comps. The fire environment--innovations, management, and policy; conference proceedings. 26-30 March 2007; Destin, FL. Proceedings RMRS-P-46CD. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. CD-ROM. p. 275-286