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Fire Frequency and the Pine Barrens of New Jersey

Richard T. T. Forman and Ralph E. Boerner
Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club
Vol. 108, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1981), pp. 34-50
Published by: Torrey Botanical Society
DOI: 10.2307/2484334
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2484334
Page Count: 17
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Fire Frequency and the Pine Barrens of New Jersey
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Abstract

State fire records and literature citations were examined to estimate both regional fire frequency and point fire frequency. The number of annual wild-fires in the 550,000 hectare Pine Barrens has remained at approximately 1100 since 1940 when fire control became effective. The total area burned annually dropped sharply from about 22,000 ha during 1906-1939 to 8,000 ha in the past four decades. Extensive wildfires of 8,000-16,000 ha each are common. Since 1838, about every two decades on the average, 10% or more of the predominant pine and oak forest burns in a single year (50,000 ha). An average point in the pine and oak forest burns currently at about 65 year intervals, compared with 20 year intervals earlier this century. The number of wildfires in the region correlates linearly with the number of dry months in a year. However, the area burned annually is constant with up to four dry months during the January-to-September period; both average and variability of area burned increases with five or more dry months. The results suggest the upland Pine Barrens are a mosaic of fire-caused patches at two levels of scale: a fine-grained scale of small (averaging 6 ha) young patches imprinted on a coarse-grained scale of large (several tens of ha), variable-sized patches more than four decades old. The drop in point fire frequency favors (a) non fire-adapted populations, (b) hardwoods swamp replacing cedar swamp, and (c) loss of the coarsegrained landscape mosaic.

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