Restoration synchrony of fuels and community composition in fire-excluded oak-hickory woodlands in north Mississippi – I am a co-PI on a Joint Fire Sciences Program award to Morgan Varner at Mississippi State University (now at Virginia Tech) for $138,408 to University of Mississippi; Total Award - $321,011). We have the opportunity with the proposed research to take advantage of an established long-term field experiment to answer complementary restoration and fuels treatment questions. To restore biodiversity and ecosystem processes in mature oak-hickory forests that had experienced prolonged fire exclusion, a restoration experiment was established at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in the loess plains of north-central Mississippi in 2003. Results to date reveal increases in groundcover plant diversity and abundance of open-woodland indicator plants (Brewer and Menzel 2009), increases in arthropod diversity (Ryndock et al. 2012), and improved conditions for some flammable, warm-season grasses (Maynard and Brewer 2013). In addition, ongoing research is currently examining restoration treatment effects on invasive plant species, amphibian populations, arbuscular mycorrhizae, and nutrient and carbon cycling. Much of this research is being by conducted via a USDA NIFA National Needs Fellowship grant targeted at training graduate students for careers in forest management. The National Audubon Society has provided funding for and the staff at the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center has assisted with treatment implementation.
The anticipated products will include individual publications related to long-term changes in plant community composition and fuels, with a novel, synthetic analysis of the degree of coincidence in recovery of vegetation and fuels across temporal and spatial scales relevant to the region’s managers. We will use our connections with managers via our research experience and involvement in the Mississippi Prescribed Fire Council and the JFSP-supported Southern Fire Exchange (SFE) to mount a vigorous technology transfer program. We will extend our results via field tours at our study sites, via web connections with the SFE consortium, in manager-focused presentations at annual Mississippi Prescribed Fire Council meetings, in peer-reviewed outlets, and at regional and national conferences.


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