Author

Erin D. Small

Date of Award

2004

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Jeremy S. Wilson

Second Committee Member

Alan J. Kimball

Third Committee Member

Alan S. White

Abstract

Historical evidence supports that severe fires can and do occur in the Acadian forests of Maine with an apposite synergy of events. Fire history in this region is complicated by limited records, intense human influence, and interacting disturbance forces -- all difficult to interpret. Climate and vegetation are closely linked to fire providing spatial and temporal fluctuation throughout the region. There is no clear role of fire in the northeastern United States. With consideration to scale and ecosystem complexity, forest development patterns are dynamic, involving a stochastic element. Due the uncertainties of fire's function, management in the Acadian region is typically based on the current forest conditions. Chapter 1 is a literature review and synthesis of information pertaining to the role and effect of fire in the Acadian spruce fir ecosystem. Chapter 2 explains the methodology used to relocate permanent plots originally set up without the use of spatial coordinates. Pre-planned ground searches using GIS, aerial photographs, and maps, improved field searching and location success. In 2003, we were able to relocate ninety percent of the plots set up in 1978 to measure the vegetation dynamics after the fire in Baxter State Park, Maine. Lessons learned and techniques developed for this project can be used by other researchers to facilitate the relocation of permanent plots and to improve the documentation of newly established plots. A well-designed method of placing, maintaining, and re-measuring permanent plots plays an essential role in long-term data collection. A series of interacting disturbance events occurred in Baxter State Park in Maine offering an excellent opportunity to study long-term changes in vegetation following a fire in the Acadian spruce-fir ecosystem. In July of 1977, 1439 hectares in and adjacent to Baxter State Park experienced a sever forest fire. Much of the fire burned areas that were blown down in a 1974 windstorm; some of those areas were salvaged prior to the fire, while others were not. In 1978, Sandra Hansen set up plots to represent these various stand conditions and measured vegetation composition and structure one year after the fire. The current study, as reported in Chapter 3, re-visited those plots in 2003 and documented the current vegetation structure to improve our understanding of post-disturbance forest development which showed little pattern. Pre-fire disturbances influenced the post-fire regeneration process. In addition, variation among plots with the same disturbance history increased with the time since the fire and provided evidence for theories of multiple pathway development. Vegetative development since 1978 has diverged on a plot level.

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