Effects of Wildfire Intensity on Invasives, Stand Structure and Fuel Loading in Shenandoah National Park
Matthews, Jeff Michael
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As invasive species are so prominent, the influence of wildfire intensity on fuel loading, invasives, species richness, diversity, and evenness were studied at Shenandoah National Park. Most National Parks identify invasive species as the biggest threat to their goal of maintaining native ecosystems. Eight study sites were stratified into three burn classes (high intensity, low intensity, and control), and three transects were randomly located so that nested plots and fuel transects were measured at a distance of 50 ft (15 m), 150 ft (45 m), and 250 ft (75 m) from a road or trail. Field sampling was conducted between May 15, 2004 and June 30, 2004. A subsample of these plots were used to determine specific gravity and quadratic mean diameter for each size class of fuel and to determine the bulk density of the duff and litter layers. High intensity wildfires initially reduced species diversity and evenness in the tree and herbaceous strata, but after 14 years tree species diversity and evenness returned to levels found in unburned areas, while herbaceous strata diversity was not associated with time since burn. Low intensity wildfires resulted in the greatest impacts in the shrub stratum. Presence of invasive species was associated with more even and diverse vegetation in all strata, perhaps because invasive species were relatively sparse. Fuel loadings were reduced initially by high intensity wildfires, but quickly returned to the same level as unburned areas. Although these initial findings indicate that invasive species will not persist after wildfire disturbance, continual monitoring by National Parks would be prudent.
- Masters Theses