Examining the Relationship Between Prescribed Fire Management and Forest Aesthetics in Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) Forests
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Forestry and Wildlife Science
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The majority of the coastal plain from Virginia to Texas was predominantly covered by longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) stands. These forests were described as 'park like' forests with a clean, aesthetic, and picturesque understory. However, European settlement dramatically degraded the longleaf pine ecosystem. The first exploitation of longleaf pine stands mostly occurred because of over harvesting along with tar, turpentine, and rosin production. Because of inadequate regeneration after harvesting, longleaf pine forests declined profoundly, and during 1950s, paper, pulp, and timber industries promoted the planting of faster growing, and fire intolerant loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) which further reduced longleaf pine stands. Today, suppression of fires has substantially reduced the pine reproduction, increased the woody understory vegetation, and has significantly decreased the stand maintenance and regeneration of longleaf pine stands. Environmental design concept is an important factor that impacts the view of longleaf pine forests. The main objective of environmental design is relevant with social behavior such as perception of aesthetics, and it applies the empirically derived principles of social behavior to the landscapes and public involvement. Yet, there is a gap in understanding the relationship between the scenic beauty, forests aesthetics and how prescribed fire treatments impact the public perception of longleaf pine forests. The study of forest aesthetics is a comprehensive framework that can provide a better understanding of how the public perceives prescribed fire and its influence on the perceived visual quality of longleaf pine ecosystems. This study aims to evaluate how different seasons and timing of prescribed fire treatments impact the scenic beauty of longleaf pine forests on the Escambia Experimental Forest near Brewton, Alabama. The main objectives of this research are: 1) develop an annotated bibliography of literature relevant to scenic beauty, forest aesthetics and prescribed fire, 2) assess the scenic beauty of longleaf pine stands that have been managed with prescribed fire at different time intervals and seasons, and 3) examine the forest measurements associated with each of the prescribed fire treatments in an attempt determine additional factors that may contribute to the scenic beauty of a forest scene. The results of this study will develop a framework to help natural resource professionals and the public better understand not only how the results of the application of prescribed fire in longleaf pine ecosystems is perceived but also how crucial it is to maintaining and conserving the forested ecosystems. The 4th chapter of this dissertation was published at http://www.jiarm.com/home.html in July issue.