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Fire Scars Negatively Affect Hydraulic Conductivity in White Oak (Quercus alba)


Justin R. Dee
Michael C. Stambaugh



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Northern Research Station




Fire management is increasingly used to manage forest stand structure and dynamics. Relatively intense fires can injure the tree stem and induce fire scar formation, aecting subsequent tree growth and wood quality. Here, we consider the physiological eects of fire scarring in white oak. Potential hydraulic conductivity, estimated from the mean vessel area and vessel number, was determined for growth rings formed before, during, and after the year of injury. We measured vessel anatomy using the ROXAS image analysis tool on the cross-sections of 14 white oaks of various ages with fire scars originating in dierent years through the late 19th and early 20th century. We found that the mean vessel area and potential hydraulic conductivity were significantly reduced for the year of and the year immediately following fire injury. After this two-year period, mean vessel area returned to levels present in wood formed prior to the injury. Age when scarred, radius from the pith when scarred, scar height above ground, and percentage of circumference scarred did not explain the degree to which potential hydraulic conductivity was lost in the fire scar year compared to the year prior. Overall, the magnitude of reduction in potential hydraulic conductivity was small but significant. An earlier study on the same cross-sections verified no reductions in radial growth after fire injury. Thus, it is likely that the conductance of older rings is adequate to sustain conductance. Nonetheless, we recommend further investigation, in particular, the ability to predict how tree size, age, position along a slope, and other variables may influence the degree of wounding and possible losses of potential hydraulic conductivity after the fire. Information like this for white oak and other common tree species may help elucidate the physiological impacts fire injuries have on trees existing in forest stands with periodic fire.


Dee, Justin R.; Stambaugh, Michael C.; Smith, Kevin T.; Dey, Daniel C. 2019. Fire Scars Negatively Affect Hydraulic Conductivity in White Oak (Quercus alba). Forests. 10(9): 812. 13 p.


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