Feasibility of igniting prescribed fires in bottomland hardwood forests.
There is emerging interest in using prescribed fire to manage bottomlands for wildlife habitat, invasive species control, and overall forest function. We evaluated the feasibility of conducting prescribed fires in bottomland hardwood forests in west-central Alabama as part of a broader strategy to control the invasive shrub Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense). We used 22 small-scale plots (0.04 hectares) in areas with residual slash from privet cutting operations and initiated prescribed fires on each to assess the overall feasibility and the relation of in-stand weather (i.e., microclimate), stand composition, and litter measurements to fire behavior. Overall, prescribed fire ignition was difficult, and only half the trials successfully burned >10 percent of the plot. We found that stand composition was most correlated with percent plot burned, and plots with higher proportions of tree species with flammable leaf traits (e.g., Quercus spp.) tended to burn best. Although further investigation is warranted, managers interested in using prescribed fire for bottomland hardwoods likely face short time windows and limited forest conditions in which fires can be reliably set.