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Fire Ecology, 2016
Volume 12, Issue 2

Sowing the Seeds of Fire and Oak in the Eastern US: a Tribute to Buell et al. 1954
Author: Marc D. Abrams
Pages: 7-12
DOI: 10.4996/fireecology.1202007

A 323-year-old white oak (Quercus alba L.) tree in Mettler’s Woods in central New Jersey, USA, was the subject of the Buell et al. 1954 paper. They identified six fire scars formed between 1641 and 1711, with a mean fire return interval of 8.6 years over this period. The fires were primarily associated with narrow rings, which are indicative of drought years. The cessation of fire scars occurred shortly after European settlement. The results of this groundbreaking study provided the first estimate of pre-European settlement fire history for mid-Atlantic oak forests and evidence that these fires were a function of Native American burning combined with drought years. The authors proposed that oak and hickory establishment (forming distinct age cohorts) was associated with recurring fire, that European settlement corresponded to reduced burning in some Eastern forests, that the cessation of burning might impact oak-hickory forest dynamics, and that old-growth forests should be preserved and studied for ecological purposes.

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