• Prescribed Fire Effects on Deciduous Oak Woodland Stand Structure, Northern Diablo Range, California

      Fry, Danny L. (Society for Range Management, 2008-05-01)
      Despite the increasing use of fire in managing oak woodlands, little information exists on quantitative changes to stand structure from prescribed burning. Fire damage and recovery in a mixed deciduous oak woodland were recorded after a prescribed fire on the northern Diablo Range, Santa Clara County, California. Blue oak (Quercus douglasii Hook. Arn.), valley oak (Q. lobata Nee), and black oak (Q. kelloggii Newb.) trees were monitored for 4 yr to determine the effects of a late spring burn on stand structural characteristics. Fire-caused mortality was low; 4 yr after the low intensity ground fire only four oaks died (1.9%). There were significant differences in mean percent tree crown scorch and mean trunk char height between plots that burned under different fire intensities, but not between tree size classes. Although overall tree damage was low, crown resprouts developed on 80% of the trees and were found as shortly as 2 wk after the fire. Recovery was vigorous; both valley oaks and blue oaks produced crown resprouts on trees with 100% crown scorch. Classification tree analysis identified aspect (mostly southern exposures) and tree size related to the presence of crown resprouting. Crown damage was also an important factor; trees with greater than 40% of their crown scorched resprouted. Fire-induced trunk scars occurred on a small number of trees (9.1%) but was disproportionately higher for black oak compared to blue and valley oak. Stand structural characteristics (species composition, tree density, basal area, and crown closure) were not substantially altered by the event but rather maintained. Prescribed fire might be a viable tool in reducing fuels and maintaining oak woodlands; however, further investigations that include relationships of regeneration with repeated fire are needed.