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Part of the book series: Managing Forest Ecosystems ((MAFE,volume 39))

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Abstract

Nowadays forest fires are so rare in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and other floodplains of the southeastern USA that these floodplains appear fireproof. Fire was once much more common across the Southeastern Coastal Plain, including in these forested floodplains. Even so, fire was not the fundamental ecological disturbance in floodplain forests that it was in adjacent uplands; flooding served that role here. Other disturbances, like hurricanes, tornados, and beavers opened floodplain forests and may have been antecedents to fires. Since the arrival of Europeans, the disturbance regime in perhaps no other ecoregion in the continental USA has been so fundamentally altered. Levee- and dam-building have radically changed the hydrology of most of these river floodplains. Logging, agricultural conversion, urbanization, and road-building have further altered ecosystem structure and function. Fire is exceedingly rare in modern, closed-canopy floodplain forests, where fuels remain moist year-round, well-drained sites are converted from canebrakes to crop fields, and fires that once burned across adjacent uplands are either halted by habitat fragmentation or actively suppressed. This chapter will discuss the role of fire in floodplains of the southeastern USA in the context of other ecological and human-caused disturbances historically, presently, and looking to the future.

Ecoregions: 73, Mississippi Alluvial Plain; 74, river floodplains of the Mississippi Valley Loess Plains; 65, Southeastern Plains; 63, Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain; 75, Southern Coastal Plain; 34, Western Gulf Coastal Plain; 35, South Central Plains; 33, East Central Texas Plains; 32, Texas Blackland Prairies

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Gagnon, P.R., Battaglia, L.L., Hanberry, B.B., Conner, W.H., King, S.L. (2021). Fire in Floodplain Forests of the Southeastern USA. In: Greenberg, C.H., Collins, B. (eds) Fire Ecology and Management: Past, Present, and Future of US Forested Ecosystems. Managing Forest Ecosystems, vol 39. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-73267-7_6

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