Global understanding of fire and its importance to ecosystem function has progressed in recent decades, but long term studies into its impact are few. An important model system for fire are longleaf forests in the southeastern US. In order to fully understand the long term impact of fire on the landscape, baseline data is critical. The southeastern US has been a leader in changing our understanding of fire disturbance in the last 50 years and the monitoring and management of longleaf forests on Eglin AFB give unique insight into general ecological concepts and management application. We used meta-analysis of vegetation, fuels and stand data from four datasets collected on Eglin AFB over 20 years to test contemporary theories that shape management models and techniques.
Long term trends show that a midstory of pyrophytic oaks is positively associated with longleaf seedling establishment and groundcover diversity, groundcover in longleaf forests may maintain a high level of diversity through altered neutral processes, alternative management treatments are not more effective restoration tools then repeated fire, and spatial and temporal scale is important to management and monitoring.