River birch occurs in bottomland hardwood forests that are usually
subject only to surface fires. Fire occurs approximately every 5
to 8 years, when climatic drought extends a dry summer into the fall,
creating conditions in which surface fires can cause great damage.
Surface fires in these bottomlands usually move rapidly, consuming
abundant shrub and herbaceous materials. Seedlings and small saplings
of all species are usually killed by these fires. Larger trees can be
scorched, leaving wounds that can develop into catfaces and are points of
entry for rot, stain, and insects. Under extreme conditions, large
trees of all species may be killed .
River birch is ranked intermediate in ecological fire tolerance by
Givnish . This ranking is based on its occurrence on sites that
either have short fire-free intervals or recently experienced fire.
River birch that has been top-killed by fire usually sprouts from the
root crown. Sites cleared by fire may be seeded by nearby trees,
provided that adequate flooding occurs to carry acorns.
Of 13 species tested, river birch bark was intermediate in heat
resistance in the 0.20-inch- (0.508-mm-) thick category, but ranked
relatively lower with increasing bark thicknesses; even though the heat
resistance of river birch bark increases with thickness, other tree
species gain more heat resistance for the same amount of thickness gain
- 10. Givnish, Thomas J. 1981. Serotiny, geography, and fire in the pine barrens of New Jersey. Evolution. 35(1): 101-123. 
- 14. Hare, Robert C. 1965. Contribution of bark to fire resistance of southern trees. Journal of Forestry. 63(4): 248-251. 
- 27. Putnam, John A. 1951. Management of bottomland hardwoods. Occasional Paper 116. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 60 p. 
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