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Keywords:

  • Arkansas;
  • fire management;
  • Keetch-Byram drought index (KBDI);
  • Ouachita National Forest;
  • prescribed fire;
  • Red-cockaded Woodpecker;
  • restoration;
  • shortleaf pine

Abstract

Pine forests of southeastern United States have been burned primarily in the dormant season to accomplish silvicultural objectives, but with increased emphasis on ecosystem restoration fires are now prescribed in other seasons. We observed fire behavior during both growing season and dormant season prescribed fires in shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) stands managed as pine–grassland communities for the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis). Fuel beds for dormant season fires were characterized by lower amounts of live fuels, higher amounts of 1-hr time lag fuel and a greater total fuel load than growing season fires. Fuel consumption and percent of the total fuels consumed was greater in dormant season fires than in growing season fires. Fireline intensity, heat per unit area, reaction intensity, and rate of spread were greater in dormant season fires than in growing season fires. Lower fire intensity in growing season fires was possibly a function of lower amounts of 1-hr time lag fuels, higher amounts of live herbaceous fuels, and possibly a less porous fuel bed. Additionally, growing season fires had lower heat per unit area and reaction intensity and slower rates of spread. The Keetch-Byram drought index (KBDI) did not provide a good index for potential fire behavior on our drought-prone sandy loam soils. KBDI during growing season fires averaged over four times greater than during dormant season fires, but fire intensity was greater in dormant season fires. Low KBDI values may be misleading and give a false sense of security for dormant season fire prescriptions on sandy loam soils because the duff layer may dry more quickly as a result of inherent low water holding capacity. High KBDI values may result in prescribed burns being canceled because of conditions that are erroneously perceived to be outside the prescription window. We caution against over-reliance on KBDI as a determining factor for conducting prescribed burns on areas with sandy or sandy loam soils.