Herbicide as a Management Tool in Mature Longleaf Pine Forests?

Prescribed FireResearch Team: Dr. Steven B. Jack (Conservation Ecologist), Dr. L. Michael Conner (Associate Scientist), Dr. L. Katherine Kirkman (Associate Scientist), and Dr. Lindsay R. Boring (Director)

There is some concern that prescribed fire may be removed as a forest management tool by regulatory agencies concerned about air quality issues, particularly the emission of atmospheric particulates. The use of herbicides has been proposed by some as a substitute for prescribed fire in southern pine forests, but very few studies have directly compared the effects of fire and herbicides in the same forest at the same time. Also, most herbicide studies do not focus on ecological effects from the treatment, and we are aware of no studies that examine the results of herbicide application in mature, fire-adapted longleaf pine forests.

In this study we will compare the effects of prescribed fire, application of a herbicide (Velparā L) commonly used in longleaf pine restoration projects, and a combination treatment of herbicide followed by prescribed fire in a mature, old-field longleaf pine forest. Specifically, we will examine responses in 1) understory and overstory plant diversity and production; 2) small mammal, herpetofauna, and avian communities; and 3) litter accumulation, decomposition and nutrient cycling.

In the first year of the study treatment plots were located and delineated (four replications of each treatment) and considerable baseline data regarding vegetation, wildlife, and nutrient cycling were collected. Treatment applications are scheduled for spring of 2000 with subsequent monitoring of treatment effects continuing throughout the year.

Research in progress, publications forthcoming.

Funded by: The Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center