Kobziar Fire Science Lab
School of Forest Resources and Conservation

Fire and Isolated Hydric Forest Systems

    Adam Watts, PhD Candidate

    Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Adam's dissertation research investigates landscape ecology, fire ecology, and pattern in forested wetlands and other areas which rarely burn, but where fire may have dramatic effects when it does occur. One of Watts's projects involves mortality trends among pond cypress following the 27,000-acre Deep Fire in 2009, which occurred during severe drought conditions. The occurrence of fire in widespread cypress swamps called domes allows us to address the relative importance of climatic, edaphic, and hydrologic drivers of mortality in addition to patch size, edge effects, and tree size. A related study investigates the effects of severe fires on soil consumption in these systems, in which organic material builds over time to form peat-like deposits. The combustion of these soils produces heavy volumes of smoke; because of health and safety concerns for motorists, these fires normally are aggressively suppressed. Impacts of soil-consuming fires on hydrology, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage will allow us to better understand the ecological effects of this suppression policy. Finally, Adam's interest in landscape pattern finds its ideal living laboratory at Big Cypress National Preserve, where depressional wetlands occur with intriguing spatial regularity. Here Adam is working to quantify the degree and extent of patterning, and potential 

drivers that may contribute to its formation and maintenance. 

Photo 1: The combination of low topographic relief and seasonally-variable rainfall in this subtropical climate of southern Florida has contributed to the development of regularly-occurring, forested depressional wetlands. Because the cypress trees in these wetland patches are larger toward their centers, their dome-shaped profiles inspired the local name for this community type. Fire and water are the primary forces acting on biota in the Big Cypress.

Related Media, Presentations, and Papers

Watts, A.C, Kobziar, L.N., and Snyder, J.R. 2012 “Fire Reinforces Structure of Pondcypress (Taxodium distichum var. imbricarium) Domes in a Wetland LandscapeWetlands DOI: 10.1007/s13157-012-0277-9.