Prescribed fire is increasingly viewed as a valuable tool for reversing ecological consequences of fire suppression within fire-adapted forests. While the use of burning treatments in northern temperate conifer forests has received considerable attention, the long-term (>10 year) effects on understory composition and dynamics have not been quantified. We describe the persistence of prescribed fire effects on the woody and herbaceous understory in a mature red pine (Pinus resinosa Ait.) forest in northern Minnesota, USA, over a ∼50-year period, as well as the relative roles of fire season and frequency in affecting vegetation responses. Burning treatments were applied from 1960 to 1970 on 0.4 ha experimental units and crossed fire season and frequency in a randomized block design. Burning altered shrub layer dynamics and composition in both the short and long terms and was influenced by both fire season and frequency, with frequent summer season burns having the largest impact, including greatest control of hazel (Corylus spp.). The application of fire facilitated regeneration of pine; however, recruitment into the overstory was limited. Additionally, community composition of the herbaceous understory diverged 40+ years following burning. This study highlights the importance of continued burning in affecting vegetation responses and the potential of fire as a long-lasting vegetation management tool in these forests.
Scherer, Sawyer S.; Kern, Christel C.; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Palik, Brian J.; Russell, Matthew R. 2018. Long-term pine regeneration, shrub layer dynamics, and understory community composition responses to repeated prescribed fire in Pinus resinosa forests . Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 48(2): 117-129. https://doi.org/10.1139/cjfr-2017-0345.