Date of Award

Summer 8-2015

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Chair

Dr. Grant L. Harley

Committee Chair Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 2

Dr. Bandana Kar

Committee Member 2 Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 3

Dr. David H. Holt

Committee Member 3 Department

Geography and Geology

Abstract

Fire is a common occurrence in the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) forests of the Southeast United States. Prescribed fire is used to manage these threatened ecosystems, but information regarding historical fire activity is unknown. My goals were to determine the historical fire regimes in De Soto National Forest (DSNF), southern Mississippi, and determine the influence of climate and land use history on fire activity at two study sites: Fern Gulley Ridge (FGR) and Death Scar Valley (DSV). The composite mean fire interval during the prescribed burning period (1980–2013) was 3.4 years. During settlements periods, fire intervals at FGR and DSV were as frequent as 1.7 years and 1.9 years, respectively. Hence, the historical fire regime was more frequent than the current schedule of prescribed fire designed to emulate past fire activity. Evidence of biannual burning was found at both sites, indicating up to three fires burned in a 12–15 month period likely caused by land use practices (i.e. logging, cattle herding). A significant (p < 0.05) albeit weak association between broad-scale Pacific and Atlantic Ocean oscillations were found, which suggests fire-climate interactions were masked by heavy anthropogenic land use over the past several centuries. Based on fire regime information gleaned in this study, burning the forest at a 2–3 year interval would be the first step towards simulating historical landscape conditions and fire activity.

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