Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Big Pine Key, Florida, is home to one of Earth’s largest swaths of the critically-endangered dry forests. Known as pine rocklands, this fire-adapted ecosystem must experience regular fire to persist and remain healthy. Pine rocklands are composed of a sole canopy species: the South Florida slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa), along with a dense understory of various woody and herbaceous species, and minimal surface moisture and soil development. Slash pine record wildfire activity of the surrounding area via fire scars preserved within the annual tree rings formed by the species. Our study used dendrochronology to investigate the fire history of the pine rocklands on Big Pine Key, specifically within and around the National Key Deer Refuge (NKDR) because it is the largest segment of unfragmented pine rockland on the island. We combined the results found within the NKDR with those of a previous study completed in 2011, and incorporated historical documents and reports of prescribed and natural fires through November 2019 into our evaluation of fire history on Big Pine Key. We conclude that prescribed burning practices are vital to truly restore natural fire behavior, and repeated burning on these islands in the future must be prioritized.


This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/).

Elizabeth Schneider worked in the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching (CEIT) at Sacred Heart University from September 2020 through September 2021.


10.3390/ fire4040079 (19 kB)
Supplementary Data

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.