Question: Interacting disturbance effects from Dendroctonus frontalis outbreaks and wildfire are thought to maintain Pinus spp. composition in the southeastern U.S. Our objective was to assess forest composition, structure, and succession following the interaction of two frequently occurring disturbance events in southern Pinus spp. forests: cut-and-leave suppression, a commonly used means for managing D. frontalis outbreaks, and wildfire.
Location: Western Gulf Coastal Plain, Louisiana, USA.
Method: Pinus taeda stands with cut-and-leave suppression and subsequent wildfire were compared to stands undisturbed by D. frontalis but with the same wildfire events twenty years after Pinus spp. mortality. The woody plant community was assessed in three different size classes and used to predict future forest types with the Forest Vegetation Simulator (50 years).
Results: P. taeda is the most abundant (> 50%) species of saw- and poletimber-sizes following cut-and-leave suppression with wildfire and in stands only with fire. Using canonical correspondence analysis, vegetation assemblages were primarily explained by slope position and elevation (7.6% variation explained). Fire intensity and stand age also accounted for variance in the ordination (4.4% and 3.1%, respectively). Dominant and co-dominant P. taeda forest types were predicted by the model to be the most abundant forest types in each disturbance regime. In addition, new regeneration represents high hazard for future mortality from D. frontalis.
Conclusion: Our study demonstrates that cut-and-leave suppression with additional wildfire disturbance maintains P. taeda composition, and does not alter forest composition differently from stands receiving only wildfire. As a result, predicted Pinus spp. basal area under both disturbances is great enough to facilitate future bark beetle disturbance.
Nomenclature: USDA NRCS (Anon. 2005).