The effects of prescribed fire and silvicultural thinning on the aboveground carbon stocks and net primary production of overstory trees in an oak-hickory ecosystem in southern Ohio
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Jyh-Min Chiang; Ryan W. McEwan; Daniel A. Yaussy; Kim J. Brown
Publication Year: 2008

Cataloging Information

  • Acer spp.
  • ANPP - aboveground net primary production
  • carbon stock
  • maple
  • oak regeneration
  • oak-hickory forest
  • Ohio
  • phenology
  • Quercus spp.
  • thinning
  • vegetation
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: November 9, 2015
FRAMES Record Number: 7136


More than 70 years of fire suppression has influenced forest dynamics and led to the accumulation of fuels in many forests of the United States. To address these changes, forest managers increasingly seek to restore historical ecosystem structure and function through the reintroduction of fire and disturbance processes that mimic fire such as silvicultural thinning. In oak forests of eastern North America, prescribed fire and thinning are important tools used to facilitate oak (Quercus spp.) regeneration and recruitment. The global scientific community is increasingly raising concerns about the accumulation of atmospheric CO₂, and its potential to impact global climate; therefore, activities such as prescribed fire and thinning that can influence the carbon balance of terrestrial ecosystems should be evaluated. We used field measurements and modeling with the PnET-II carbon balance model in oak forests of southern Ohio, USA, to (1) assess the efficacy of prescribed fire and silvicultural thinning in facilitating oak recruitment and regeneration, and (2) quantify the impacts of these treatments on aboveground carbon stocks and net primary production. Silvicultural thinning increased recruitment of maples, but oak recruitment was minimal. Prescribed burning caused an increase in the mortality rate of oaks' major competitor (Acer rubrum L.) in the overstory (stems >=10cm DBH), but oak mortality also increased following the burn treatments. Our measurements of stem growth suggest that the timing of the prescribed fires coincided with the initiation of growth in oaks, which may have created vulnerability in these species that are generally considered fire-resistant. The pre-treatment aboveground biomass of overstory trees was approximately 233Mg/ha (Mg=1x10⁶ g). Prescribed burning had significant impacts on the mortality of stems; however, it had no significant effects on the aboveground net primary production (ANPP). Thinning removed approximately 30% of the aboveground biomass and resulted in significant but transient (1 year) reduction of ANPP (386 and 560gCm⁻² year⁻¹ for thinned and non-thinned stands, respectively). In sum, thinning created recruitment opportunities in our study area, but these opportunities were captured by maples, and oak recruitment was minimal. Prescribed fire caused mortality in oaks and maples, and the oak mortality may have been related to the coincidence of the burn treatment and the initiation of oak stem growth. Finally, our data suggest that there is a transient impact of thinning on ANPP, but that there is no long-term effect of thinning and/or burning treatments on the aboveground carbon uptake in oak forests.

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Chiang, Jyh-Min; McEwan, Ryan W.; Yaussy, Daniel A.; Brown, Kim J. 2008. The effects of prescribed fire and silvicultural thinning on the aboveground carbon stocks and net primary production of overstory trees in an oak-hickory ecosystem in southern Ohio. Forest ecology and management 255(5-6):1584-1594.