Fire Ecology Program

Research

Plant Community and Ecosystem Ecology

The Fire Ecology Program takes a broad approach to understanding the processes that maintain fire-dependent plant communities and ecosystems of the southeastern U.S.

Much of our research has used long­term fire plots burned at different intervals of where fire is excluded to better understand the all­important role of fire in shaping natural communities of the Southeast. The Stoddard Plots have been used to understand the effects of fire return interval on plant species composition, soil carbon and nutrients, and soil respiration and carbon turnover rates which influence soil carbon sequestration. The Pebble Hill Fire Plots have also been burned at different intervals to study changes in native plant species composition, broadleaf woody plant resprouting after being topkilled by fire, tree demographics, soil chemistry, and fire behavior, which is both a cause and effect of community dynamics.

We are also studying the effects of soil disturbance on native plant communities to understand their resiliency and rate of recovery to this conservation threat. In addition to studying the direct effects of disking, we are studying succession of plant communities following the abandonment of agriculture and restoration of a frequent fire regime, as well as the associated ecosystem services of bee diversity, soil health and carbon accumulation, and forest productivity.

We are interested in the distribution of various pine community types, including various longleaf pine communities and shortleaf pine­oak­hickory woodlands, in relation to soil conditions and topography. We are also studying the effects of pine canopy cover, age of longleaf pine regeneration clusters, topography, and weather on fire spread and heterogeneity, which appear to be important for maintaining plant diversity, forest structure, and animal habitat. We have collaborated with Cindy Tang and colleagues to study current distribution and ecology of Tertiary relict tree species in Asia.

« Back to Fire Ecology

Burning a Stoddard Plot that has been treated with annual fire since 1960

Intern Michelle Smith lighting at the Pebble Hill Fire Plots

Plant Ecologist Cinnamon Morrison measuring plant productivity for Ecosystem Services Project

Publications

Tang, C.Q., Y. Yang, M. Ohsawa, A. Momohara, S.­R. Yi, K. Robertson, K. Song, S.Q. Zhang, and L.Y. He. 2015. Community structure and survival of Tertiary relict Thuja sutchuenensis (Cupressaceae) in the subtropical Daba Mountains, southwestern China. PLoS ONE 10(4)
DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0125-307 19pp.

Stewart, J.F., R.E. Will, K.M. Robertson, and C.D. Nelson. 2015. Frequent fire protects shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) from introgression by loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Conservation Genetics 16:491­-495.

Robertson, K.M. and T.L. Hmielowski. 2014. Effects of fire frequency and season on resprouting of woody plants in southeastern US pine­grassland communities. Oecologia 174:765­-776.

Glitzenstein, J.S., D.R. Streng, R.E. Masters, K.M. Robertson, and S.M. Hermann. 2012. Fire­frequency effects on vegetation in north Florida pinelands: Another look at the long­term Stoddard Fire Research Plots at Tall Timbers Research Station. Forest Ecology and Management 264:197­-209.

Robertson, K.M. and T.E. Ostertag. 2007. Effects of land use on fuel characteristics and fire behavior in pinelands of southwest Georgia. Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference Proceedings 23:181­-191.

Robertson, K.M., H.M. Poulos, A. Camp, and M. Tyrell. 2015. Introduction: Fire ecology of the Northeast – Restoring native and cultural ecosystems. Journal of Sustainable Forestry 34:1­-5.

Hmielowski, T.L., K.M. Robertson, and W.J. Platt. 2014. Influence of season and method of topkill on resprouting characteristics and biomass of Quercus nigra saplings from a southeastern U.S. pine­grassland ecosystem. Plant Ecology 215:1221­-1231.

Robertson, K.M. and T.L. Hmielowski. 2013. Effects of frequency and season of resprouting of woody plants in south­eastern US pine­grassland communities. Oecologia 174:765­-776.

Tang, C.Q., Y.C. Yang, M. Ohsawa, A. Momohara, J. Mu, and K.M. Robertson. 2013. Survival of a Tertiary relict species: the Chinese tulip tree in southern China, with special reference to village Fengshui forests. American Journal of Botany 100:2112­-2119.

Glitzenstein, J.S., D.R. Streng, R.E. Masters, K.M. Robertson, and S.M. Hermann. 2012. Fire­frequency effects on vegetation in north Florida pinelands: Another look at the long­term Stoddard Fire Research Plots at Tall Timbers Research Station. Forest Ecology and Management 264:197­-209.

Robertson, K.M., K.E.M. Galley, and R.E. Masters (eds). 2010. Proceedings of the 24th Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference: The future of prescribed fire: public awareness, health, and safety. Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, Florida, USA. 185 p.

Royer, D.L., L.A. Meyerson, K.M. Robertson, and J.M. Adams. 2009. Phenotypic plasticity of leaf shape morphology along a temperature gradient in Acer rubrum. PLoS ONE 4(10): e7653.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007653.

Carr, S.M., K.M. Robertson, and R.K. Peet. 2009. A vegetation classification of fire­dependent pinelands of Florida. Castanea 75:153­-189.

Carr, S.M., K.M. Robertson, W.J. Platt, and W. Peet. 2009. A model of geographic, environmental, and regional variation in vegetation composition of pyrogenic pinelands of Florida. Journal of Biogeography 36:1600­-1612.

Robertson, K.M. and T.E. Ostertag. 2009. Biomass equations for hardwood resprouts in fire­maintained pinelands in the southeastern U.S. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry, 33:121­-128.

Ostertag, T.E. and K.M. Robertson. 2007. A comparison of native versus old­field vegetation in upland pinelands managed with frequent fire, south Georgia, USA. Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference Proceedings 23:109­-120.

Borchert, R., K. Robertson, M. D. Schwartz, and G. Williams­Linera. 2005. Phenology of temperate trees in tropical climates. International Journal of Biometeorology 50:57­-65.

Robertson, K.M. and T.E. Ostertag. 2004. Problems with Shurbon and Fauth’s test of effects of prescribed burning on amphibian diversity. Conservation Biology 18:1154-­1155.