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Picture of National Study Evaluates Fuel Treatments in Reducing Risk of Fire
PNW-2012-15
National Study Evaluates Fuel Treatments in Reducing Risk of Fire

Title: Principal short-term findings of the National Fire and Fire Surrogate study

Author: McIver, James; Erickson, Karen; Youngblood, Andrew.

Date: 2012

Source: Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-860. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 210 p

Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)

Description: Principal findings of the National Fire and Fire Surrogate (FFS) study are presented in an annotated bibliography and summarized in tabular form by site, discipline (ecosystem component), treatment type, and major theme. Composed of 12 sites, the FFS is a comprehensive multidisciplinary experiment designed to evaluate the costs and ecological consequences of alternative fuel reduction treatments in seasonally dry forests of the United States. The FFS has a common experimental design across the 12-site network, with each site a fully replicated experiment that compares four treatments: prescribed fire, mechanical treatments, mechanical + prescribed fire, and an unmanipulated control. We measured treatment cost and variables within several components of the ecosystem, including vegetation, the fuel bed, soils, bark beetles, tree diseases, and wildlife in the same 10-ha experimental units. This design allowed us to assemble a fairly comprehensive picture of ecosystem response to treatment at the site scale, and to compare treatment response across a wide variety of conditions. Results of 206 technical articles on short-term findings are summarized here, with the following general conclusions: (1) For most sites, treatments modifi ed stand structures and fuels to the point where post treatment stands would be expected to be much more resistant to moderate wildfire. (2) For the great majority of ecosystem components, including the vegetation, soils, and animal species, short-term responses to treatments were subtle and transient. (3) Comparison of fire risk reduction and ecological effects between 1-year and several years posttreatment suggests that while effects tend to dampen with time, fire risk increases, owing to treatment-induced collapse of burned portions of stands. (4) Each multivariate analysis conducted has demonstrated that critical components of these ecosystems are strongly linked, suggesting that managers would be prudent to conduct fuel reduction work with the entire ecosystem in mind. (5) Multisite analyses generally show strong site-specific effects for many ecosystem components, which reduces the broad applicability of findings, and suggests that practitioners might do well to employ adaptive management at the local or regional scale. (6) Mechanical treatments do not serve as surrogates for fire for the great majority of ecosystem components, suggesting that fi re could be introduced and maintained as a process in these systems whenever possible. (7) For research to best inform management on fuel reduction strategies through time, longer measurement times posttreatment are needed, as well as repeated applications of treatments; short-term results of the FFS are insufficient to comment on long-term ecosystem trajectories.

Keywords: fuel reduction, prescribed fire, forest thinning, dry forests

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
  • You may send email to pnw_pnwpubs@fs.fed.us to request a hard copy of this publication. (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)

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Citation:


McIver, James; Erickson, Karen; Youngblood, Andrew. 2012. Principal short-term findings of the National Fire and Fire Surrogate study. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-860. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 210 p.

 


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