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Drainage and Agriculture Impacts onf Fire Frequency in a Southern Illinois Forested Bottomland.

Author: Nelson, John L.; Ruffner, Charles M.; Groninger, John W.; Souter, Ray A.;

Date: 2008

Source: Can. J. For. Res. 38: 2932-2941

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)


Postsettlement (1909–2003) fire history of a forested bottomland in the Mississippi Embayment of southern Illinois, USA, was determined using fire-scar analysis. The study area is a forested bottomland hardwood site, with remnant pockets of the dominant presettlement bald cypress – tupelo (1919, with agricultural clearing and abandonment varying throughout the early and mid-twentieth century. Commercialagricultural activities ceased after the site became part of a conservation area ca. 1950. The hydrology of the site was further modified in 1957 when it was inundated for waterfowl management. Both drainage and land clearing for agriculture were ssociated with increased fire frequency. Although drainage was a necessary precursor to agriculture across much of this landscape, land improvement played the stronger role in determining fire frequency. The mean fire interval for the study period (1895–1965) was 1.73 years, with a minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 15 years. This frequency contrasts with the complete fire exclusion that has prevailed in the area since 1965. These results have important implications for the maintenance and restoration of forested wetland ecosystems where the present fire regime differs dramatically from that under which the now-dominant forest vegetation developed.

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John L. Nelson, Charles M. Ruffner, John W. Groninger and Ray A. Souter 2008. Drainage and Agriculture Impacts on Fire Frequency in a Southern Illinois Forested Bottomland. Can. J. For. Res. 38: 2932-2941


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