Fire and Fire Surrogate Study

In 2000, the National Fire and Fire Surrogate (NFFS) Study was initiated by the Joint Fire Science Program to research impacts of fuel reduction treatments on multiple components of forested ecosystems across the United States. In 2001 the Green River Game Land in Polk County, NC, was selected to represent the Southern Appalachian upland hardwood forest ecosystem in the NFFS. Treatments were implemented under the direction of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission western region staff. Scientists at the Bent Creek Experimental Forest studied the response of rodents, shrews, reptiles and amphibians, and birds to three fuel reduction treatments in Southern Appalachian hardwood forest: prescribed burning, mechanical understory removal, and mechanical understory removal + prescribed burning.

Our research shows that:

  • Habitat structure in the mechanical understory removal + prescribed burning treatment was different compared to the other fuel reduction treatments.
    • Heavy tree-kill
    • More snags
    • More light
    • Reduced leaf litter
    • Reduced shrub cover
  • Bird species responded differently to the mechanical understory removal + prescribed burning treatment.
    • Most bird species showed no measurable response to any of the treatments.
    • Some species, such as indigo buntings and bluebirds increased in abundance in the mechanical understory removal + prescribed burning where the habitat was more open.
    • Others, including worm-eating warblers and hooded warblers decreased in the mechanical understory removal + prescribed burning, but this effect was short-term.
    • Species richness and total abundance of birds increased in the mechanical understory removal + prescribed burning treatment.
  • White footed mice increased in response to the mechanical understory removal + prescribed burning treatment.
  • Shrews as a group decreased in the mechanical understory removal + prescribed burning treatment, but not all species showed differences.
  • Reptiles – particularly fence lizards increased in response to the mechanical understory removal + prescribed burning treatment.
  • Amphibians showed no measurable response to any fuel reduction treatments.

Bent Creek Experimental Forest

Bent Creek Experimental Forest
1577 Brevard Road
Asheville, NC 28806

Phone: (828) 667-5261
Fax: (828) 667-9097