Cape Cod
Page Index

Site Description
Treatment map
Management Implications






























Map of the
Lombard Paradise Plots

Legend of Map of plot locations at Cape Cod




Cape Cod National Seashore

aerial photo of cape cod national seashore

Aerial Photo of Cape Cod, with the research site at Lombard-Paradise Hollow circled in white.

Site Description

The Lombard-Paradise Hollow Fire Management Research Area encompasses approximately 30 acres of land within Cape Cod National Seashore. Located west of Route 6 in South Truro on the Wellfleet glacial outwash plain, the research area is situated on top of a plateau between Paradise Hollow to the south and Lombard Hollow to the north.

Periodic wildland fire helped create the fire-adapted pine-oak woodland vegetation type found within the Seashore. The dominant canopy species are pitch pine (Pinus rigida) and white and black oaks (Quercus alba and Q. velutina), with scrub oak (Q. ilicifolia). huckleberry (Gaylusaccia baccata), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), and wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) in the understory.

Lightning-caused fires are rare on Cape Cod, but even before Europeans arrived in the 17th century, Native American Indians used fire for a variety of purposes including clearing away underbrush, promote berry production for their own use and to increase food for wildlife. After the Pilgrims arrived wildfires have been widespread on the outer Cape until the last half of the 20th century have been more successful.

Prior to acquisition by the National Park Service in 1961, the Lombard/Paradise area had been logged and grazed, but not cultivated. Over the last 100 years the forest has experienced gypsy moth defoliation every 20-30 years, most recently in he early-mid 1980's.

Decades of fire suppression altered historic fire cycles and allowed wildland fuels to accumulate, again raising the threat of wildfires which could threaten cottages within the Seashore boundaries.

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Experimental Design / Treatments

In 1986, the National Park Service, in cooperation with the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, initiated applied research on the effectiveness of varying season and frequency of treatments on forest composition, fuel loading, and fire behavior on sixty, 0.1 acre plots at the Lombard Paradise site. Flammable shrub understories have been treated by brush cutting (mowing) or prescribed fire in either the dormant (winter) or growing (summer) season. All treatments are replicated three times, with treatments applied at 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-year intervals.

In 1995 managers began burning larger plots of approximately 1-acre. These test plots have been burned primarily in the summer and exhibit hotter-burning fires with effects that are more readily observed than on the smaller plots.

In 2003 nine additional 0.5-acre plots were established northeast of the original sixty 0.1 acre plots. Six of these plots were mowed in early July 2003 and then burned a month later. The plots were reburned to evaluate effects of the treatments on fire behavior in May, 2004.

map of the lombard-paradise research plots at cape cod

Map of the Lombard-Paradise Research plots, prepared by John Norton-Jensen.
Numbers on the small, 0.1 acre, plots indicate treatment intervals in years.
Medium plots are 0.5 acre plots, large plots are >1 acre "test" plots.

Click on the links below to see photos of some of the 0.1 acre plots.

Plots Burned in the Dormant Season |Plots Burned in the Growing Season

Plots Mowed in the Dormant Season | Plots Mowed in the Growing Season

Additionally, we've pulled together more extensive information for one of the 0.1 acre long-term research plots, one that is burned every fourth dormant season (treatment Burn Winter 4).

Click here for an example of the data we have collected for each plot.

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Management Implications

Growing season (summer) treatments whether mowing or burning are more effective in reducing fuel loads and the vigor of resprouts than are dormant season treatments. Applying these treatments at 3-4 year intervals is the most cost-efficient way to reduce fuels and prevent catastrophic wildfires. Applying summer treatments annually leaves too fuels to efficiently continue treatment after very few years.

Summer burns conducted during drought conditions consume duff layers, kill most shrubs, and favor pitch pine seedling establishment. Drought conditions also limit the size of summer burns due to mop-up constraints. Annual summer mowing eliminates shrubs and reduces the amount of litter and dead wood that fuel wildfires. Mowing shrub understories with hand-held brush cutters costs approximately $225/acre. Mowing with brushcutters reduces predicted intensity of surface fires by 60%.

Combinations of mowing followed by burning (applied in a single summer) quickly reduces fuel loads and fire hazard, and fire behavior on subsequent burns (see photos and graph below).

photo of untreated pine-oak woodlands at the lombard paradise research site
Photo of pine-oak woodland vegeation at the Lombard Paradise site before treatment.
Photo by Bill Patterson III.

photo of pine-oak woodlands at the lombard paradise research site after mowing and prescribed burning treatments

Photo of pine-oak woodland vegetation at the Lombard Paradise site taken after treatment. The plot was mowed in the summer of 2003, burned later that summer, and then
burned again in early May 2004. Photo by John Norton-Jensen.

Fuel Type
litter (tons/acre)
live shrub (tons/acre)
dead shrub (tons/acre)
fuel depth (ft)
shrub height (ft)

Table of fuel weights and heights for treatments.
Data collected Spring, 2004 before leaf-out.

Graph showing the effectiveness of mowing+burning treatments in reducing fire behavior

Graph showing the effectiveness of mowing and burning
in a single growing season in reducing fire behavior.


If you're planning a trip to the Cape, consider printing the brochure John Norton-Jensen and Nell Blodgett put together about our research at Lombard Paradise. Get the brochure here (pdf).

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