John Hiers

John Hiers
Tall Timbers Research Station

About

124
Publications
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Publications

Publications (124)
Article
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Background The structure and function of fire-prone ecosystems are influenced by many interacting processes that develop over varying time scales. Fire creates both instantaneous and long-term changes in vegetation (defined as live, dead, and decomposing plant material) through combustion, heat transfer to living tissues, and subsequent patterns of...
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Ecological studies have long examined large-scale geographic gradients in abiotic conditions and their relationship to the structure and function of ecological systems, but many critical processes in forested systems are driven by abiotic gradients that vary at fine spatial and temporal scales. To adequately characterize fine scale microclimatic va...
Article
Natural disturbance-based silviculture emphasizes harvest methods that emulate the timing and structural changes of natural disturbances. Longleaf pine woodlands are ecologically important ecosystems of the southeastern U.S. that support high biodiversity. Options for multi-aged silviculture include individual tree and group selection methods to pr...
Article
Reference sites with relatively unaltered plant communities are used regularly to establish targets for ecological restoration, yet few are free from anthropogenic disturbances. In this study, we sought to understand the capacity for native community indicators and other plant species to recover from abandoned woods roads and tilled soils within re...
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Fire is a key determinant of vegetation structure and composition in ecosystems worldwide and is therefore an important management tool. The “pyrodiversity hypothesis”, which postulates that biodiversity will increase as fire diversity increases, remains largely untested for pollinators, a group of high conservation concern. We tested the relations...
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Ecosystem process models can be used to predict forest response to disturbances at a range of scales. Selection of the spatial class of model should depend on the scale of the research or management question , and model type should depend on the ecosystem attributes of interest. In some cases, multiple classes of models could be used to address a s...
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Increased prescribed burning is needed to provide a diversity of public benefits, including wildfire hazard reduction, improved forest resilience, and biodiversity conservation. Though rare, escaped burns or significant smoke impacts may result in harm to individuals and property. Liability for potential damages reduces the willingness of fire mana...
Chapter
Southeastern pineland ecosystems fall into two broad groups: ecosystems with a grassy understory that depend on frequent low-intensity fires to maintain structure and biodiversity [longleaf (Pinus palustris), south Florida slash (P. densa), shortleaf (P. echinata)], and ecosystems with a shrubby understory that burn less frequently with higher inte...
Chapter
Higher temperatures, lower snowpacks, drought, and extended dry periods have contributed to increased wildfire activity in recent decades. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of large fires, the cumulative area burned, and fire suppression costs and risks in many areas of the USA. Fire regimes are likely to change due to interactio...
Article
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Interest in prescribed fire science has grown over the past few decades due to the increasing application of prescribed fire by managers to mitigate wildfire hazards, restore biodiversity, and improve ecosystem resilience. Numerous ecological disciplines use prescribed fire experiments to provide land managers with evidence-based information to sup...
Article
No PDF available ABSTRACT Crackling sounds from burning vegetation provide information to fire-experienced land managers regarding the combustion process. These acoustic impulse events can inform practitioners of a variety of situations, from the type of vegetation involved and relative “dryness,” to alerting wildland fire fighters to increased bur...
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Long-term fire exclusion may weaken ecosystem resistance to the return of fire. We investigated how a surface wildfire that occurred after several decades of fire exclusion affected a southern Appalachian forest transitioning from a fire-adapted to a fire-intolerant state. Tree traits associated with fire adaptation often co-occur with traits for n...
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Traditional forestry, ecology, and fuels monitoring methods can be costly and error-prone, and are often used beyond their original assumptions due to difficulty or unavailability of more appropriate methods. These traditional methods tend to be rigid and may not be useful for detecting new ecological changes or required data at modern levels of pr...
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Measuring wildland fuels is at the core of fire science, but many established field methods are not useful for ecosystems characterized by complex surface vegetation. A recently developed sub-meter 3D method applied to southeastern U.S. longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) communities captures critical heterogeneity, but similar to any destructive sampl...
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The dead foliage of scorched crowns is one of the most conspicuous signatures of wildland fires. Globally, crown scorch from fires in savannas, woodlands, and forests causes tree stress and death across diverse taxa. The term crown scorch, however, is inconsistently and ambiguously defined in the literature, causing confusion and conflicting interp...
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Globally increasing wildfires have been attributed to anthropogenic climate change. However, providing decision makers with a clear understanding of how future planetary warming could affect fire regimes is complicated by confounding land use factors that influence wildfire and by uncertainty associated with model simulations of climate change. We...
Article
Terrestrial LiDAR is a promising tool for providing accurate and consistent measurements of forest structure at fine scales and has the potential to address some of the drawbacks associated with traditional vegetation monitoring methods. To compare terrestrial LiDAR to traditional methods, we conducted vegetation surveys using common methods of est...
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• Although most efforts to improve habitat for bees and other pollinators focus on floral resources, it is also important to consider the availability and suitability of nesting habitats in relation to various management activities. • We used soil emergence traps to compare the number of ground‐nesting bees among treatments in a long‐term fire freq...
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Coupled fire-atmosphere models are increasingly being used to study low-intensity fires, such as those that are used in prescribed fire applications. Thus, the need arises to evaluate these models for their ability to accurately represent fire spread in marginal burning conditions. In this study, wind and fuel data collected during the Prescribed F...
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Active management of fire-dependent ecosystems for specific species leads to complex tradeoffs, which affect conservation outcomes to other species. Therefore a multi-species evaluation of management actions is required. Habitat Suitability Models (HSMs) can help in predicting the likelihood of species occurrence using corresponding environmental v...
Article
Fill et al. (Global Change Biology, 25, 3562–3569, 2019) reported significant increases in dry season length over the past 120 years in the Southeast US, suggesting increased wildfire risk in a region associated with a frequent fire regime. We identified two flaws that call into question the findings and their relevance to regional wildfire risk. F...
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Abstract Increasing trends in wildfire severity can partly be attributed to fire exclusion in the past century which led to higher fuel accumulation. Mechanical thinning and prescribed burns are effective techniques to manage fuel loads and to establish a higher degree of control over future fire risk, while restoring fire prone landscapes to their...
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Abstract Firebrands are an important agent of wildfire spread and structure fire ignitions at the wildland urban interface. Bark flake morphology has been highlighted as an important yet poorly characterized factor in firebrand generation, transport, deposition, and ignition of unburned material. Using pine species where bark flakes are the documen...
Preprint
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Firebrands are an important agent of wildfire spread and structure fire ignitions at the wildland urban interface. Bark flake morphology has been highlighted as an important, yet poorly characterized factor in firebrand generation, transport, deposition, and ignition of unburned material. Using pine species where bark flakes are the documented sour...
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Background Thinning and prescribed fire are increasingly used to promote oak ( Quercus L. spp.) regeneration in forest restoration projects across the eastern United States. In addition to monitoring the response of vegetation to these reductions in basal area, the research and land management community has become focused on the response of wildlif...
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Prescribed burning is a critical tool for managing wildfire risks and meeting ecological objectives, but its safe and effective application requires that specific meteorological criteria (a ‘burn window’) are met. Here, we evaluate the potential impacts of projected climatic change on prescribed burning in the south-eastern United States by applyin...
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Wildland fires have a multitude of ecological effects in forests, woodlands, and savannas across the globe. A major focus of past research has been on tree mortality from fire, as trees provide a vast range of biological services. We assembled a database of individual-tree records from prescribed fires and wildfires in the United States. The Fire a...
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The realm of wildland fire science encompasses both wild and prescribed fires. Most of the research in the broader field has focused on wildfires, however, despite the prevalence of prescribed fires and demonstrated need for science to guide its application. We argue that prescribed fire science requires a fundamentally different approach to connec...
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Background Litter is the predominant fuel that drives surface fire behavior in most fire-prone forest and woodland ecosystems. The flammability of litter is driven by fuel characteristics, environmental factors, and the interactive effects of the two. Solar radiation can influence litter flammability through its effect on fuel moisture and temperat...
Article
The spatial pattern of surface fuelbeds in fire-dependent ecosystems are rarely captured using long-standing fuel sampling methods. New techniques, both field sampling and remote sensing, that capture vegetation fuel type, biomass, and volume at super fine-scales (cm to dm) in three-dimensions (3D) are critical to advancing forest fuel and wildland...
Article
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Much of the once-dominant longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) ecosystem has been lost from the Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States and only a few scattered remnants of primary forest remain. Despite much interest in understanding and restoring this ecosystem, relatively few studies have attempted to characterize or assess the conserva...
Article
Coupled fire-atmospheric modeling tools are increasingly used to understand the complex and dynamic behavior of wildland fires. Multiple research tools linking combustion to fluid flow use Navier-Stokes numerical solutions coupled to a thermodynamic model to understand fire-atmospheric feedbacks, but these computational fluid dynamics approaches re...
Preprint
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The spatial pattern of surface fuelbeds in fire-dependent ecosystems are rarely captured using long-standing fuel sampling methods. New techniques, both field sampling and remote sensing, that capture vegetation fuel type, biomass, and volume at super fine-scales (cm to dm) in three-dimensions (3D) are critical to advancing forest fuel and wildland...
Article
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Fire is a keystone process that drives patterns of biodiversity globally. In frequently burned fire-dependent ecosystems, surface fire regimes allow for the coexistence of high plant diversity at fine scales even where soils are uniform. The mechanisms on how fire impacts groundcover community dynamics are, however, poorly understood. Because fire...
Article
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Forests have a prominent role in carbon sequestration and storage. Climate change and anthropogenic forcing have altered the dominant characteristics of some forested ecosystems through changes to their disturbance regimes, particularly fire. Ecosystems that historically burned frequently, like pinelands in the southeastern United States, risk chan...
Preprint
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Fire is a global process that drives patterns of biodiversity. In frequently burned fire-dependent ecosystems, surface fire regimes allow for the coexistence of high plant diversity at fine-scales even where soils are uniform. The mechanisms on how fire impacts groundcover community dynamics are however, poorly understood. Because fire can act as a...
Article
Savanna ecosystems contribute ~30% of global net primary production (NPP), but they vary substantially in composition and function, specifically in the understory, which can result in complex responses to environmental fluctuations. We tested how understory phenology and its contribution to ecosystem productivity within a longleaf pine ecosystem va...
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How fire interacts with an ecosystem is driven by forest structure, fuel bed heterogeneity, topography, and weather. The juxtaposition of two distinct vegetation types with divergent properties can further influence the effects of fire on an ecosystem. In the southeastern United States, pine flatwoods and hardwood–cypress swamps are distinct ecosys...
Article
Premise of the Study: Aboveground biomass (AGB) of herbaceous vegetation is a primary source of fuel in frequent surface fires that maintain grasslands, savannas, and woodlands. Methods for nondestructively estimating AGB are required to understand the mechanisms by which fuels affect fire behavior and the effects of time since the last burn. We de...
Article
Prescribed burning is an essential tool for forest and rangeland management that requires specific weather conditions to enable the efficient and safe application of fire. Prescribed burning is often limited by the ability to find suitable burn-days that fit within the identified weather parameters that balance good smoke dispersion and erratic fir...
Article
Fine dead fuel moisture has a major influence on wildland fire behavior yet the dynamics driving water exchange of fuel particles in forested environments remain poorly understood. Most fire behavior models rely on simple, stand-level fuel moisture estimates, ignoring potentially important variation occurring within fuelbeds that could influence fi...
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Few efforts have been made to quantify the amount and variety of deadwood in frequently burned ecosystems, particularly the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) ecosystem of the southeastern United States. Moreover, comparisons of coarse woody debris between old-growth and secondary longleaf pine forests are lacking despite the widely recognized v...
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Purpose of Review The search for causal mechanisms in fire ecology has been slow to progress for two main reasons. First, many fire ecology investigations often occur after fires, with no detailed information on fire behavior. These fire effects are then used to infer both fire behavior and the subsequent effects themselves. Second, that fire behav...
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As scientists and managers seek to understand fire behavior in conditions that extend beyond the limits of our current empirical models and prior experiences, they will need new tools that foster a more mechanistic understanding of the processes driving fire dynamics and effects. Here we suggest that process-based models are powerful research tools...
Article
Florida, United States, government records provide a new resource for studying fire in landscapes managed with prescribed fire. In Florida, most fire area (92%) is prescribed. Current satellite fire products, which underpin most air pollution emission inventories, detect only 25% of burned area, which alters airborne emissions and environmental imp...
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Wildland fire behavior research has largely focused on the steady-state interactions between fuels and heat fluxes. Contemporary research is revealing new questions outside the bounds of this simplified approach. Here, we explore the complex interactions taking place beyond steady-state assumptions through acknowledging the manufactured separation...
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Despite historically dominating many landscapes of the southeastern United States, old-growth stands of southern pine (Pinus palustris, P. elliottii var. densa, P. elliottii Engelm. var. elliottii, P. echinata, and P. taeda) are extremely rare and have high ecological value, but may be underrepresented and mischaracterized due to small fragment siz...
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In a recent communication,Cruz et al. (2017)called attention to several recurring statements (mantras) in the wildland fire literature regarding empirical and physical fire behaviour models. Motivated by concern that these mantras have not been fully vetted and are repeated blindly,Cruz et al. (2017)sought to verify five mantras they identify. This...
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Ecologists who specialize in translational ecology (TE) seek to link ecological knowledge to decision making by integrating ecological science with the full complement of social dimensions that underlie today's complex environmental issues. TE is motivated by a search for outcomes that directly serve the needs of natural resource managers and decis...
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One of the most effective ways to foster the co-production of ecological knowledge by producers and users, as well as encouraging dialogue between them, is to cultivate individuals or organizations working at and managing the boundary between the two groups. Such “boundary spanners” are critical to ensuring scientific salience, credibility, and leg...
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We define a translational ecologist as a professional ecologist with diverse disciplinary expertise and skill sets, as well as a suitable personal disposition, who engages across social, professional, and disciplinary boundaries to partner with decision makers to achieve practical environmental solutions. Becoming a translational ecologist requires...
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2017. Overstory-derived surface fuels mediate plant species diversity in frequently burned longleaf pine forests. Ecosphere 8(10): Abstract. Frequently burned low-latitude coniferous forests maintain a high-diversity understory. Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) forests and woodlands have exceptionally high diversity at fine scales and very fre...
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Recognition of spatial heterogeneity of fire at fine scales is emerging, particularly in ecosystems characterized by frequent, low-intensity fire regimes. Differences in heat flux associated with variation in fuel and moisture conditions create microsites that affect survivorship and establishment of species. We studied the mechanisms by which fire...
Article
Within the varied contexts of environmental policy, conservation of imperilled species populations, and restoration of damaged habitats, an emphasis on idealized optimal conditions has led to increasingly specific targets for management. Overly-precise conservation targets can reduce habitat variability at multiple scales, with unintended consequen...
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Fire is integral to the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems of the southeastern USA and is a strong selective force on plant species. Among woody plants, oak species (Quercus spp. L) have diverse life history traits that appear to reflect their evolution in this fire-prone region. Oaks also occur across wide gradients of fire frequency and intens...