Fire suppression has created fire management issues across the U.S., but western wildfires often overshadow alarming trends east of the Mississippi River. Fire’s absence in the east has led to widespread mesophication; a self-reinforcing process where cool, damp, and dark microenvironments promote species that maintain such conditions. Mesophication reduces fuelbed flammability and threatens the regeneration of disturbance-dependent trees, understory herbaceous diversity, and associated wildlife; however, hope lies in identifying fire’s absence as a root cause. At three sites located across the Mid-South, we used canopy thinning and fire to reverse mesophication effects. Results demonstrate positive effects on fuel-beds, oak regeneration, understory herbaceous layers, and bird and bat communities. Using such active management now to reverse mesophication may maintain the productivity, sustainability, and function of eastern ecosystems during an uncertain climatic future.
Mesophication of Eastern Forests: A Problem as Big as the Word, with a HOT Solution
Michigan State University