US Federal land managers have utilized hand ignited prescribed fire at Big Thicket National Preserve in efforts to restore the structure and diversity of the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) forest. A fire ecology study was initiated by Rice University in the early 1990’s and the National Park Service has continued monitoring the plots. Ordination was applied to species abundance data to examine changes in vegetation communities from a variety of prescribed fire treatments and controls. The vegetation data was separated by size class to include overstory, small tree, large sapling and seedling data. Across the size classes and treatments, the sandhill and wetland savanna vegetation types remained less effected by fire treatments and only the upland pine responded to changes in the overstory. Upon reviewing fire return interval histories, it became evident that prescribed fire alone was not changing vegetation communities. Most of the plots did not have longleaf pine trees or seedlings present and only two plots that were mechanical treated showed distinction among other treatment regimes. Restoration treatments including the mechanical and chemical application and seedling plantings are necessary to ensure restoration of the longleaf pine forest structure and diverse understory vegetation.
Oswald, B. P.; Boensch, D. M.; Williams, H. M.; and Hung, I-Kuai, "Responses to Prescribed Fire at Big Thicket National Preserve, Texas, USA" (2017). Faculty Publications. 525.